This is the finding of a new market research report, published by Business Communications Company, which notes that 2.5 billion pounds pf plastic resin found its way into healthcare products this year, and this will rise to 3.2 billion pounds in five years' time.
Among current trends are increased use of disposable products, an ageing population, continuing cost pressures on suppliers, increasing influence of hospital and healthcare-related purchasing groups, continued shift to outside contract packaging, and more and more emphasis on child-resistant/senior-friendly and temper-evident packaging, all of which will challenge the healthcare packaging industry through the decade and beyond.
The new report, entitled Plastics for Healthcare Packaging, notes that growth in the market is at an annual average rate of 4.9 per cent.
The market is led by polypropylene, polyvinylchlorine (PVC) and high-density polyethylene (HDPE). Polypropylene represents nearly 28 per cent of the market and will rise at an AAGR of 5 per cent to 913 million pounds in 2009.
PVC is and will remain with the second highest share, despite efforts to reduce its use, according to BCC.
The drive to reduce PVC usage in healthcare packaging, led by environmental groups, will have only a marginal impact simply because PVC is still regarded as a cost-effective and "safe" material by the healthcare packaging industry.
The major plastic healthcare packaging products are segmented into two groups: medical and pharmaceutical. The former include intravenous (IV) bags, other bags and parts, kits, tubing and containers, syringes, trays and a miscellaneous group.
Pharmaceutical packaging products are made up of closures, bottles/vials, blister packaging and a miscellaneous category. Bottles/vials, tubing/containers, syringes, kits, are estimated to be the leading healthcare packaging applications, accounting for over 83 per cent of total plastic volume in 2004.
One of the strongest dynamics in this business is the increasing demand by healthcare company end-users for special grades of resin for their special packages, and greater involvement by suppliers in final package design and specifications.
Impetus for new packaging can come from the healthcare company, which often needs a new packaging concept for a new product, as well as from the resin supplier, which is trying to increase penetration and market share. The healthcare companies are thus important partners in the development of new and improved plastic packaging, according to the report.