Medical device sector slow to embrace sustainability

David Eldridge

Published: September 7, 2012 6:00 am ET

Related to this story

Topics Medical, Sustainability

LONDON (Sept. 7, 2:20 p.m. ET) — The medical-devices industry has been slow to embrace the sustainability trend, according to companies working in the sector.

“Our feeling is that most manufacturers are not on top of it,” said Stephen Knowles, managing director of Industrial Design Consultancy, a U.K. company that provides design and development services to medical-device manufacturers. “Many manufacturers say they want to do something, but are not sure what to do.”

IDC is highlighting the need for greater understanding of sustainability in connection with IEC 60601, the international standard for environmentally conscious design of electronic medical equipment. The standard was introduced in 2007, but the third edition released in June this year makes compliance with part 9 obligatory rather than optional, putting pressure on European manufacturers to make their products more sustainable.

Recognizing the lack of awareness about sustainability, IDC has launched an online tool for allowing manufacturers to access data easily for life-cycle analysis of their products. The LCA calculator uses data from EcoInvent, based in St. Gallen, Switzerland, which provides a comprehensive inventory of materials and manufacturing processes and delivers easy-to-interpret results.

Knowles said users can also input materials and manufacturing data about their products, which their suppliers should give to them. Using the calculator, device manufacturers can identify the major environmental impacts of their existing products and then explore “what-if” scenarios for new designs, materials and technologies.

IDC works mainly with smaller companies with limited resources. For the big pharmaceutical companies that produce drug-delivery devices such as inhalers, sustainability has risen up the agenda, according to Orest Lastow, director of medical development at Zenit Design in Sweden. “Pharma companies are used to dealing with compliance; they take it seriously,” he said.

But even large companies are struggling to find a clear direction for their approach to sustainability. Some of the challenges of identifying and implementing sustainability improvements for drug inhalers were discussed in a paper presented by IPAC-RS Devices Working Group, a joint industry group made up of major pharma companies, at a conference called Drug Delivery to the Lungs, held in Edinburgh in December 2011.

“The inhalation industry is behind other high-tech industries, such as electronics, with its adoption of sustainability,” the group said in the paper. “As the principles of sustainability are better understood and more fully applied, should the industry come together to move forward with realizing the gains that come with a sustainable approach, or wait for this to be imposed through legislation?”

Recycling used devices was a major challenge identified in the paper. Some pharma companies have started inhaler take-back programs, but there is no standard model for collection and there are handling concerns due to drug residues and patient bio-contamination.

Morten Nielsen, CEO of Bang & Olufsen Medicom, a drug-delivery device manufacturer based in Denmark, said device makers are currently following a compliance-led strategy for sustainability. Unlike the automotive sector, medical product makers are not using sustainability as a means to come up with products that drive sales growth.

“Is sustainability a differentiator? I don’t think it is yet,” he said.

Nielsen also raises the potential for higher costs when developing and manufacturing a more sustainable medical device. Payment regimes in the health-care markets of European countries are not likely to pay a premium for a product because it is sustainable, he said.

Spiraling health-care costs are under scrutiny worldwide, and this is affecting drug- and device-development trends.

Orest Lastow said: “There is growing pressure on pharma companies to cut costs. And sustainability can add costs.”

Lastow said: “It’s a struggle for companies to balance sustainability with other product-development needs. So they need to be smart about how they do the sustainability work.”


Comments

Medical device sector slow to embrace sustainability

David Eldridge

Published: September 7, 2012 6:00 am ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Image

Unilever puts Dove brand on a MuCell diet

April 23, 2014 1:57 pm ET

New technology employed by Unilever NV in the manufacture of bottles for its Dove Body Wash range of products could end up saving the brand owner up...    More

Image

Coffee roaster looks to improve footprint of single cup systems

April 22, 2014 1:30 pm ET

One of the largest coffee and tea manufacturers in North America has introduced a single-serve beverage capsule intended to curb the waste created by ...    More

Some medical devices could get faster approval with new FDA rules

April 22, 2014 7:41 pm ET

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is proposing an expedited approval for medical devices for devices aimed at the diagnosis or treatment of...    More

Image

Two Ohio groups team up to accelerate development of future medical devices

April 22, 2014 9:55 am ET

The Austen BioInnovation Institute in Akron and Cleveland-based design specialists Nottingham Spirk announced a strategic partnership that the two...    More

Two Eastman buildings among 10 biggest energy savers in national contest

April 22, 2014 11:35 am ET

Two offices at the headquarters of Eastman Chemical Co. in Kingsport, Tenn., ranked in the Top 10 for energy efficiency in the latest Energy Star Nati...    More

Market Reports

Market Data Book - Rankings & Lists

A one-stop download of Plastic News' exclusive annual lists and processor rankings containing essential data including sales, employees, end markets, materials and more.
EXCLUSIVE EXCEL FEATURE: full mailing address details for available plant locations.

Learn more

Thermoformed Packaging 2014 Market Review & Outlook North America

This in-depth report provides analysis and discussions of economic and political conditions, market trends, legislative/regulatory activity impacting supply and demand, business opportunities and threats, materials pricing, manufacturing technology, as well as strategies being implemented by thermoformed packaging companies. In addition, there are reviews of 25 leading thermoformers in the packaging segment, assessing their growth initiatives and performance metrics over 10 years.

Learn more

Mold Making and Tooling Review and Outlook 2014 North America

This report provides in-depth analysis of the mold and toolmaking market for North America, including discussions of trends, opportunities, threats, the latest developments in production and labor and equipment trends impacting moldmakers.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

May 6, 2014 - May 8, 2014Plastics in Medical Devices 2014

May 12, 2014 - May 12, 2014Plastics News Brazil Pharma Summit

September 10, 2014 - September 12, 2014Plastics Caps & Closures 2014

February 3, 2015 - February 7, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

More Events