Polymeric materials such as resins and fibers, elastomers and biodegradable plastics are being used in various medical applications which include medical devices and equipments, medical packaging and others. Synthetic polymers can be manufactured to possess specific properties required in medical applications, whereas natural polymers are biodegradable in nature which can be easily disposed and hence find applications in life sciences. Polyvinyl chloride, polypropylene, polyethylene, polystyrene, styrene block copolymer, rubber latex and other elastomers are being used in medical applications. The factors that are responsible for driving the market include increase in use of medical devices, aging population and rise of the home healthcare market. It is estimated that, by 2050, 16% of the global population will be over 65 years of age. Home healthcare market is growing mainly in developing countries due to benefits that include intensive care, lower costs as compared to hospital care. Medical facilities are relying more on tests conducted by machines rather than traditional tests. Additionally, biodegradable plastic is a novel product segment that sees an immense future scope mainly because of stringent regulations put down by governments regarding use of various synthetic polymers. However instability related to the cost of raw materials is restricting the market scope as new product development and expected revenues are not being achieved. Medical polymers are being increasingly preferred in comparison to other conventional materials owing to advantages such as low cost, high availability and processing ease. Asia Pacific is a high potential market for medical polymers due to rise of medical tourism in countries such as India, Singapore and Malaysia.
Fibers and resins were the largest consumed product segment in the market accounting for over 80% of global demand in 2013. PVC and polypropylene are the most commonly used polymers in medical devices and are expected to dominate the market over the forecast period. Medical polymer exhibits a major opportunity in the medical materials market over the next few years primarily due to technological advancement which can fine tune implant capabilities, enabling better fits for implants with increased biocompatibility. In addition, aging populations in developed nations where several polymer implants are specifically intended to aid elder patients is also expected to boost the global demand for medical polymers. The global market of biodegradable plastics is expected to increase in the forecast period with the rising demand for more eco-friendly packaging materials. The escalation of the packaging industry is influenced by the need for non-toxic biodegradable plastics thereby resulting in the increased demand for biodegradable plastics.
Applications of medical polymers include devices and equipments, packaging and others such as tissue engineering, cardio implants, etc. Devices and equipments include catheters, dialysis bags, blood bags and gloves are polymer based due to its properties such as strength, flexibility, clarity, surface finish and low cost. Light weight polymers are a preferred option for packaging of medicines, drugs and syringes. The cardiovascular segment is growing with increasing number of heart patients in addition to growth in surgical and infection control cases in Asia Pacific, thereby boosting the demand for polymers in medical devices. The medical device packaging industry is expected to increase in emerging countries such as India and China where expansion, diversification and stricter regulation of medical product industries are raising the functional and quality requirements of containers and related accessories. Also with the increasing prevalence of cardiovascular diseases, demand for polymers as coronary stents is growing steadily.
North America was the largest regional market for medical polymers accounting for over 40% of global demand in 2013. North America and Europe and expected to remain dominant market for medical polymers over the next six years owing to the negligible impact of economic downturn on the medical industry in these regions. Asia Pacific is expected to be the fastest growing market over the forecast period majorly due to the shift in manufacturing activities from western countries to countries such as India and China. In addition, countries such as India, China, Malaysia and Singapore are large medical tourism markets resulting increased demand for polymers in medical application in Asia.
The key companies in the market include BASF SE, Bayer Material Science AG, Celanese Corporation, DSM N.V, E.I. DuPont de Numeros Company, Eastman Chemical, Evonik Industries AG, Exxon Mobil Corporation, The Dow Chemical Compant, Huizhou Foryou Medical Device Co Ltd and Kraton Performance Polymers Inc. among others.