Industry Focus Archives

Changing Demographics Drive Medical Demand

Our aging population has expectations for healthcare and a sustainable quality of life that those before could have only dreamed of—prospects that innovation supported by plastic medical devices can afford them. Rising healthcare spending, higher life expectancy and innovation all have fueled growth in the plastics and medical device industries. A strong focus on research and development has led to numerous scientific and technological breakthroughs with no end in sight. In the past few decades, plastics have made healthcare simpler and less painful, and new techniques possible. Plastic medical devices have reduced contamination, relieved pain and cut medical costs. They have prolonged, improved and saved lives. “From blood bags and examination gloves to glucose meters and heart valves, vinyl, polyurethane and other plastics have traditionally been the healthcare industry’s materials of choice,” says Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) President and CEO William R. Carteaux. “The materials’ strength and versatility will continue to be in demand as medical discoveries and treatment breakthroughs create a need for new medical tools that only plastics can deliver.” Be it tamper-evident seals, child-resistant caps or Petri dishes, plastics continue to permeate medicine. Home healthcare products—including assistive devices, therapeutic devices, monitors, sensors and telemetry devices—are expected to become one of the fastest- growing segments of the medical device industry. The U.S. Census Bureau notes that as the U.S. population ages, healthcare will be increasingly delivered in alternative settings, such as nursing homes, hospices and patient homes. As a result, BCC Research & Consulting, a company that does economic, market and policy research, projects a $20-billion global market for home medical equipment in 2012. Another market tipping the scale is the plastic medical device packaging sector. Plastics packaging has proven indispensable in modern medical care, providing products such as see-through intravenous bags and break-resistant containers. According to a recent study by the firm Frost and Sullivan, this sector is expected to earn $920 million by 2013. U.S. Census data shows that by 2030 there will be 71.5 million adults age 65 and over—up from 35 million in 2000. The older population is influencing the direction of the medical device industry due to its changing health needs and an accompanying shift in thinking on how and where seniors will be treated. Polymer-containing devices such as artery-opening stents, heart pacemakers, and hip replacements will help save and improve life for this rising figure—demonstrating that as our population ages, the need for plastics will grow. As important a role as plastics may play in medical devices, there is an […]