A Robust Market Rich with Opportunities: Advanced Wound Dressings

The expansive wound care market encompasses all aspects of wound management, including wound cleansing, debridement, infection prevention, and fluid absorption and retention. As the rates of risk factors for developing chronic, difficult-to-heal wounds surge, the need for comprehensive therapies is becoming increasingly crucial.

Advanced wound dressings, in particular, play an indispensable role by providing clinicians and caregivers with the necessary features to treat challenging wounds, such as diabetic foot ulcers, pressure ulcers, and chronic leg ulcers of various origins. Despite some variation in the terminology used to designate advanced wound dressings, a general consensus among experts defines this category as including foams, alginates, hydro-fibers, hydrogels, hydrocolloids, semi-permeable films, wound contact layers, superabsorbents and collagens.

Valued at about $2.8 billion in 2014, the global advanced wound dressings market will grow to exceed $3.5 billion by 2021. The United States and Europe currently represent the two largest markets in the world—and the expansive U.S. market is driven by a large population, rising demand and wider recognition and adoption of wound care products. Germany, the second largest market in the world, is home to a host of wound care companies and enjoys an expanded awareness of wound care, especially among nursing staff.

Emerging Markets Will Play an Important Role

However, emerging economies, such China, India and Brazil, will see the fastest growth in the coming decades. Expanding populations, burgeoning economies and the rising prevalence of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are key drivers of the wound care space in these regions. Additionally, the authorities in these nations have implemented new directives to harmonize their regulatory frameworks and update their reimbursement pathways to ease the market entry of international players who are seeking to access an ever-growing number of customers.

Top Market Performers

Major players in the wound care space include Smith & Nephew, 3M Health Care, Mölnlycke, Coloplast and ConvaTec. Smaller companies, such as Systagenix (now part of Acelity), Medline and Urgo, also play an important role in developing unique brands and technologies. The most serious, proactive wound care firms take a holistic view of wound management by marketing a wide portfolio of products that address various aspects of healthy healing.

These companies are also bolstering rising wound care technologies, such as negative pressure wound therapy (NPWT), that promote faster recovery and healing times. Additionally, wound care firms have been leveraging mergers and acquisitions (M&As), internal R&D and new partnerships to expand their business, especially in the promising emerging markets.

Established dressing formats, such as foams, alginates, and hydrocolloids, continue to hold a majority share of the advanced wound dressings market because these types of products can collectively address a range of wound indications at relatively lower prices. However, newer modalities, such as hydro-fibers, wound contact layers, and superabsorbents are witnessing swifter growth.

Despite their higher costs, hydro-fibers and superabsorbents tend to feature superior wound exudate absorption and retention properties, while wound contact layers are becoming increasingly critical in mitigating pain and discomfort at the wound interface. On the other hand, the collagens market is shrinking due to higher expenses and a perceived lack of additional benefits.

Meeting Important Unmet Needs

Despite the respectable worldwide adoption of advanced dressings, important unmet needs may drive future trends and innovations. According to many wound care professionals, optimal and comprehensive antimicrobial power remains elusive in many advanced dressings. Despite the extensive use of antimicrobials, especially silver, physicians are not impressed by the lack of robust clinical evidence.

Citing the paucity of strong supporting data, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in the United Kingdom has discouraged the use of antimicrobial products for the routine treatment of chronic ulcers. Some companies, such as BSN Medical, offer products that feature novel approaches that rely on hydrophobic interactions to reduce the presence of bacteria at wound sites. However, the long-term effectiveness of these products remains to be seen.

“Smart” Dressings Will Push Future Growth

The current generation of advanced dressings can be augmented in many other ways. Great potential for “smart” dressings with cutting-edge material properties can address complex wound morphologies, manage larger amounts of wound discharge, conform well to surfaces and topically deliver biopharmaceutical agents that accelerate healing. Furthermore, wound care firms can push wound diagnostics to the forefront of R&D.

Wound diagnostic tools, especially those that are non-invasive, are crucial to gauging the underlying conditions of the wound without disrupting healthy healing. Elevated protease activity, bacterial burden and level of oxygenation are key wound indicators that can guide effective treatment strategies. The ultimate panacea would be an all-encompassing diagnostic platform incorporated into a smart dressing that can dynamically react and adapt to each and every wound condition.

In addition to technological limitations, there are certain non-clinical challenges in the arena of wound care. The lack of education and awareness can be a crippling barrier to the greater adoption of wound care products. Consequently, many countries and institutions offer specialized certification for nurses, who are the foremost providers of wound care. On the other hand, patient involvement also needs to improve—it is crucial for patients to comprehensively understand their treatment options and to be more proactive in their personal care. Greater patient involvement leads to the reduction of the burden on nursing time and mitigates the stress on the healthcare and reimbursement systems.

Globally, wound care presents ample opportunities for market growth. As highlighted previously, the emerging nations are the new battlegrounds for winning customers. Additionally, wound care firms have room to expand their portfolios by developing dressings that are optimally compatible with topical negative pressure therapy and compression therapy. Furthermore, manufacturers have the opportunity to engineer dressings for scar management and other indications, such as wounds sustained during radiation treatment. In summary, advanced wound dressings is likely to remain a dynamic market in the medical devices arena for the foreseeable future.

  • Shashank Settipalli

    Shashank Settipalli is a Research Analyst in the Medical Devices division at GlobalData. He has received a BSc in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Connecticut and an MSc in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Michigan.

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