NEW YORK — Two top winners at this year's Medical Design Excellence Awards showcase plastic: a non-PVC bag developed by Pactiv and an acetal ligation clip developed to replace metal clips.
The awards, announced at the Medical Design and Manufacturing East show in New York June 7, are organized by Canon Communications, which runs the trade show.
The jurors were not taking a position in the heated debate about PVC's use in medical products, but wanted to recognize Pactiv's commitment to environmental safety, said Steve Halasey, associate editorial director for Los Angeles-based Canon.
"I think they were saying it is a market reality that people were going to look for alternatives" to PVC, he said.
Pactiv, however, was not shy about touting the bags as environmentally preferable to PVC.
"These bags are environmentally friendly, as they do not produce toxic dioxins or hydrogen chloride when incinerated and provide significant plastic material savings over their PVC counterparts," Pactiv said in a statement.
Vinyl Institute officials did not have any comment, but have said in the past that incinerator operating conditions, not the amount of vinyl in medical waste, is the key to how much dioxin is produced.
Pactiv said its three-layer, elastomer-modified polypropylenes use half the plastic of PVC and do not require overwraps in many applications. But a company official at the MD&ME show said the bag has one disadvantage compared with PVC — it is not radiofrequency weldable.
"The stumbling block is not the product — it is the filling machines," said Harry Ludwig, sales and marketing director for Sengewald Verpackungen GmbH & Co. KG in Halle, Germany, the Pactiv subsidiary that makes the bag.
"The filling machines work with RF welding," he said.
The bag is sold in Europe but not the United States, where the flexible medical bag market is dominated by Abbott Laboratories, Baxter Healthcare Corp. and B. Braun McGaw.
The company said it is talking with PVC bag makers throughout the world, including the United States, and is not interested in selling directly to hospitals.
The acetal ligation clip, developed by Weck Closure Systems in Research Triangle Park, N.C., also won a gold award, the top prize in each of 10 categories.
The polymer clip is designed to expand the market for manual metal clips that Weck currently makes, capturing some business that goes to automatic ligation devices, said Jeffery Haggerty, director of materials management for Weck. Ligation devices are an alternative to sutures.
Weck said the polymer clip, introduced in 1999, is designed to eliminate clip dropout and can lock onto blood vessels. It also eliminates imaging interference on scans and can be compressed for insertion.
The company started developing the clip in the late 1980s but ran into problems when liability concerns drove resin manufacturers from the medical implant market, he said.
The company purchases the material overseas, but is looking for a U.S. supplier, since the U.S. Congress in 1998 passed legislation exempting resin makers from product liability.
The market for manual ligation devices like Weck makes is about $100 million a year, while the market for automatic ligation is 15 times larger, Haggerty said.
The clip is molded by Avail Corp. in Dallas.