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Medical Plastics : US Industry Study With Forecasts To 2008 & 2013


US market to reach $5.6 billion in 2008


Medical plastic demand in the US is projected to rise 3.1 percent per annum to 4.3 billion pounds in 2008, valued at $5.6 billion. Advances will reflect an upswelling of medical product and packaging requirements brought about by an aging population and increasing number of medical conditions. The increased use of disposable devices and supplies is also leading to more intensive use of plastics over glass, metal and other materials.


Commodity resins to remain dominant


Commodity plastic demand in the manufacture of medical product components and packaging is projected to grow 2.8 percent per year to 3.6 billion pounds in 2008, accounting for 83 percent of all medical plastics. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) advances will be predicated on the resin's competitive cost, versatility, and good performance properties, as well as the introduction of improved and environmentally safer grades. Most rapid advances among commodity plastics are expected for polypropylene (PP), reflecting the material's clarity, barrier strength and radiation resistance benefits. The expanding use of drug blister packs will keep demand for low density polyethylene advancing steadily.


Engineered resins to grow the fastest


Despite their higher cost, engineered plastics will provide faster medical associated growth than commodity plastics, with demand rising 4.3 percent per annum to 740 million pounds in 2008. Advances will be based on needs for higher performing materials in surgical, diagnostic testing, drug delivery, geriatric care, self treatment and preventative medicine. Fastest growth is expected in research and diagnostic products (e.g., equipment housings) and surgical and medical instruments (e.g., syringes and scalpels). Thermoplastic polyester will remain the dominant engineered resin with polycarbonate and thermoplastic elastomers exhibiting the best growth due to heightened needs for clarity, impact resistance, and tactile and other properties. Accelerated growth is also expected for niche thermoplastics such as polyetheretherketone (PEEK) and polysulfone in surgical and medical instruments, as well as in x-ray and electromedical equipment.


Medical product component market to outpace medical packaging uses


Growth in demand for medical plastics in product components will outpace packaging applications. Areas of opportunity include prosthetic devices and invasive surgical instruments. These uses are dominated by other materials such as metal, and are open to penetration by new, advanced thermoplastics. In packaging applications, plastics dominate most medical container and accessory uses and will be adversely affected by cost pressures, saturated markets and pressures for less material-intensive packages.