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This CBI market survey 'The medical devices and disposables market in the EU' gives an overview of the opportunities and threats that potential exporters from developing countries (DC) should analyse before making a decision to export to the EU. It reviews the following aspects:


The European Union (EU) is the 2nd largest markets for medical devices and disposables worldwide. In 2006, the EU consumed 15.6 million tonnes of medical devices and disposables, or more than - 29 billion. EU consumption has increased steadily over the years. Between the years 2002-2006 medical devices showed an average growth of 3% per year. Over the same period medical disposables grew by 4% per year. Growth was especially pronounced in the new EU Member States due to the increase in public and private health care expenditure. Most of the more established markets grew slow yet stable.

Market trends indicate that the population of the EU is slowly ageing. However, its population also has a more active lifestyle. Both developments will add to the growth of the market. On the other hand, cutbacks in expenditure might call for re-adjusting resource allocation. Hospitals are already trying to reduce the length of hospital stays and promote homecare treatment. Due to changes in reimbursement policies throughout the EU, suppliers will have to show hard evidence of their product's added value or will not be reimbursed. This has also lead to treatments becoming more complex, as new technological developments are incorporated into products. DC exporters that offer products that are cost-saving without compromising on quality will be able to find market openings easier.

Following current consumption trends, socio-cultural developments, economic outlooks and the recent expansion of the EU, it is expected that EU consumption of medical devices and disposables will continue to grow at a similar rate as in the past. The demand for products that fit into a prevention-orientated, consumer-driven healthcare model is expected to show the most growth in coming years. However, due to rising costs EU governments are reforming their healthcare systems and implementing restrictive measures that affect reimbursement policies.


Despite the steady increase in consumption, production between the years 2002-2006 increased only slightly at a rate of 3% per year and totalled - 25.7 billion in 2006. Production of medical devices increased by 4% per year while that of disposables dropped by 3%. One of the reasons for the poor performance is that some EU Member States that are significant producers of medical devices and disposables are shifting production to other locations, mainly to Africa and Asia. Medical outsourcing to Latin American countries is more common for U.S. medical device manufacturers.

The outlook for the medical production companies in the EU looks moderately positive. The increased international pressure from low-wage countries and strong global players might result in a decrease of production in most EU countries. Furthermore, most of the large markets (Germany, UK and France) in the EU will grow however only slowly. The highest growth rates in coming years are expected in the new Member States.

Medical device and disposable manufacturers in the EU are increasingly working together in order to reduce costs and fend off competition. EU manufacturers are also relocating and outsourcing production to countries where the wages are lower and/or the production legislation is less strict.