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US demand for sterile medical packs grows

STERILE medical packaging demand in the US is projected to grow by 5.4% a year to $1.7bn in 2005, stimulated by an ageing population, increasingly stringent infection control standards and the convenience of sterile packaging configurations. However, tightening cost containment pressures in the medical field threatens further advances.

These and other trends are presented in Sterile Packaging, a new study from Cleveland-based industrial market research firm Freedonia Group. Thermoformed trays will provide the best opportunities, rising by nearly 6% annually to $460m in 2005. Growth will be stimulated by increased use in surgical and diagnostic test kits.

Most rapid growth is anticipated for blister packs and clamshells, which are expected to rise 6.5% annually to more than $120m. Advances will be based on the strength and high visibility of blisters and clamshells in the packaging of medical devices and supplies.

Pouch demand is expected to increase by 5.7% per annum to more than $390m in 2005, driven by the productís versatility and low price compared with trays. Bags will exhibit average growth over the same period. Pouches and bags offer the best combination of cost and quality, says the report. The fastest growing market for sterile packaging will be medical supplies and devices, as disposables continue to gain market share over reusables.

Packaging used in the pharmaceuticals and biologicals market will increase at below average rates due to shorter hospital stays and diminished growth in the number of surgeries performed. Best growth potential is anticipated for plastic bottles, while the rise in demand for vials and IV containers will be below average.

PVC will remain the dominant resin for sterile packaging, although more rapid growth is expected for thermoplastic polyesters. Although PVC has versatile applications, excellent performance characteristics and a low price, it suffers from its incompatibility with radiation sterilisation and environmental restrictions.

Low and high density polyethylene demand will present opportunities based on their widespread use in bags and pouches. The strength of bags and pouches has been enhanced by using multilayer film structures incorporating nylons, metallocenes and other combinations. Nylon is increasingly being used in the packaging of large, bulky procedural kits and devices due to its toughness and abrasion and puncture resistance.

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