Few industries can claim immunity from the global credit crisis and even fewer can predict growth throughout such trying times. But as research from a new report compiled by Global Markets Direct, titled ‘Global Drug Delivery Investment Opportunities, Analysis and Forecasts to 2012’, shows, drug development makers working in the needle-free injections, infusion and inhalation systems areas could have what it takes to not only come out the other end but make a profit in the process.

Buoyed by new demand due to a number of factors including an aging population, increasing customer and consumer confidence as well as reimbursement owing from devices issued in previous years, the industry is in good stead to profit in years ahead.

It is reimbursement, however, that is probably the biggest single contributor to income that will help the industry avoid the impact of the economic recession in the US and Europe, where the industry is hardest hit. Easier channels of reimbursement will also help sales pick up in the US, which is predicted to be its biggest market in years ahead.

Multiple new products are also expected to hit the market in coming years which will make the industry more dynamic and improve competition, further helping it grow during these difficult times. But this does not mean the industry is without its challenges. The impact of the global economic downturn will be felt in the emerging economies and market factors such as unaffordability, lack of awareness and demand will continue to challenge market growth.

Drug delivery devices – a modern-day scenario

Overall, the global market for drug delivery devices was worth $13.8bn in 2007 and is forecast to grow 13.6% annually to reach $26bn by 2012. Global Markets Direct research shows that increased safety and efficacy of drug delivery devices has helped it to grow in recent years, and is the main factor that has given the industry a lead over conventional modes of administration.

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The advent of biologics and biotechnology-based compounds has also fuelled the demand for innovative and effective delivery devices. And, as previously mentioned, acceptance by patients and healthcare professionals alike coupled with a growing demand for minimally invasive delivery methods will help continue growth in years to come.

It is predicted that the industry will see large shifts in the number of self-administrative drugs coming on to the market in coming years. This shift from professional to home administration, already being catered for by pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, will have a knock-on affect for device manufacturers that will have to cater for new administrative techniques. These will be catered for in the areas of inhalation devices, infusion systems and needle-free injections.

Inhaling success

The inhalation systems market, dominated by AstraZeneca, 3M Healthcare and GlaxoSmithKline which together accounted for approximately 50% of the global market share in 2007, is still the largest contributor to the drug delivery market – valued at $10.5bn in 2007. It is forecast to grow 4.0% annually to reach $12.8bn by 2012.

“The industry will see large shifts in the number of self- administrative drugs coming on to the market in coming years.”

Comprising of the dry powder inhalers and metered-dose inhalers market segments, this sector is closing in on traditional delivery methods of oral and intravenous administration due to increased consumer acceptance. The dry powder inhaler market has been the fastest growing segment in the inhalation systems market.

Improved and sophisticated drug formulations along with relatively simpler inhaler devices are leading the growth of optimised drug delivery. This in turn is expanding the usage of the devices and market growth of the dry powder inhalers.

According to Global Markets Direct, given the expansion and growth opportunities in the inhalation systems market there is considerable scope for new entrants to thrive and grow along with this market.

Infusing growth

The global infusion systems market is also predicted to grow in the coming years. It was worth $3bn in 2007 and is forecast to grow by 10% annually to reach $4.7bn by 2012.

The infusion systems market comprises the infusion pumps, syringe pumps and infusion disposable sets segments. Infusion systems deliver medication and fluids into a patient’s circulatory system in a way that, if performed manually by a healthcare professional, would not only be very expensive but impractical and unreliable in a large number of cases. This makes infusion systems favoured cost-controlling devices for home healthcare settings.

Infusion systems have been continuously evolving from simple micro-processor driven devices to software-controlled sophisticated drug libraries. In recent years, improvements have been made with respect to standardising the concentrations and delivery limits used for such systems. One of the advanced features available with the infusion system is the integration of the infusion system with the hospital’s IT platform, enabling information sharing.

The global market for infusion systems remains competitive with Baxter International, Cardinal Health, Hospira, Smiths Medical, Fresenius Kabi and B Braun accounting for more than two thirds of this.

A needle-free future

One of the biggest growth predictions for global drug delivery devices is the needle-free injections market. Valued at $281.7m in 2007, this market is forecast to grow by 97.7% annually to reach $8.5bn in 2012.

“New administrative techniques include inhalation devices, infusion systems and needle-free injections.”

At present, the competitive landscape within this market is still heavily fragmented with multiple global and local companies operating in each country. Some of the leading players within this market are Bioject Medical Technologies, Bespak and Glide Pharma.

Needle-free injections are increasingly finding their way into the home healthcare market where painless drug delivery helps ensure medication is taken.

The injections are useful in the delivery of vaccines and protein therapeutics like erythropoietin, growth hormones and insulin. They can help overcome factors such as needle phobia, psychological resistances and safety problems with traditional syringes.

It is expected that increased regulatory activity and patient demand for non-invasive methods, are expected to drive growth in the global needle-free injections market.

Overall, needle-free injections, infusion systems and inhalation devices are all predicted to see figures stay buoyant in years ahead – a positive sign for the global medical device industry despite trying economic conditions.

The Global Markets Direct report is available for purchase here.