Medical device sector slow to embrace sustainability

David Eldridge

Published: September 7, 2012 6:00 am ET

Related to this story

Topics Sustainability, Medical

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

Truce? ACC, US Green Building Council agree to work together on LEED

August 28, 2014 12:08 pm ET

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) and the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) announced Aug. 27 that they will be working together on a new...    More

Image

Baxter may be looking for a Boston home

August 28, 2014 11:46 am ET

As Baxter International Inc. may be staking out real estate in the Boston area for its headquarters, Illinois faces the prospect of having to dangle...    More

Image

Bag usage drops 71% in Northern Ireland

August 28, 2014 10:41 am ET

A shopping bag fee in Northern Ireland has resulted in a 71.8 percent reduction in bag numbers in its first year of operation.    More

Image

Bayer seeing success in project to replace petroleum with C02

August 28, 2014 10:18 am ET

Bayer MaterialScience says its research into the potential of using carbon dioxide as a raw material already is paying off in studies showing that...    More

Image

Sony entering recycled PC market

August 27, 2014 11:08 am ET

Consumer electronics giant Sony Corp. is getting into a sideline of selling recycled resins.    More

Market Reports

Thermoformed Packaging 2014 Market Review & Outlook North America

This in-depth report analyzes economic and market trends, legislative/regulatory activity impacting supply and demand, business opportunities and threats, materials pricing, manufacturing technology, as well as growth strategies being implemented by thermoformed packaging companies.

Learn more

Pipe, Profile & Tubing Extrusion in North America 2014

U.S. demand for extruded plastics is expected to grow by 3 percent in 2014, with PVC remaining the largest segment.

Plastic pipe will post the strongest gains through 2018, continuing to take market share from competing materials in a range of markets.

Our latest market report provides in-depth analysis of current trends and their financial impact on the pipe, profile and tubing extrusion industry in North America.

Learn more

2014 Injection Molding Industry Report

GROWTH, OPPORTUNITY IN SIGHT FOR INJECTION MOLDERS IN 2014

In the wake of the economic turbulence earlier in this decade, molders today find themselves in much better shape. Molders are gaining a competitive advantage by investing in people, equipment and seeking inroads into new markets on a global scale.

Growth in the injection molding industry is going to be driven by low financing costs and a continued move to reshore some business.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

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

January 14, 2015 - January 14, 2015Plastics in Automotive

February 4, 2015 - February 6, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

More Events