As the number of elderly people increases, demand for biomaterials used in the treatment of osteoarthritis, cataracts and even wrinkling, will rise significantly, according to a new report from analysts Frost & Sullivan.
For those applications, the report claims, physicians will increasingly turn to products based on hyaluronic acid (HA), a natural substance that gives structure to tissue, lubricates moveable parts and absorbs shock in joints. Because the introduction of HA stimulates cells to produce new, healthy HA on their own, this will soon become the preferred biomaterial for a variety of therapies.
The US market for HA biomaterials was worth some $411 million in 2001. Steady growth in opthalmology, osteoarthritis, facial aesthetic implant and vesicoureteral reflux implant markets is likely to continue up to 2008, when total market revenues could surpass $903 million, Frost & Sullivan said.
The advantages of HA-based products over collagen will be a key reason for that revenue growth.
"Although collagen-based products have been in the market for a long time, HA-based products are expected to displace them in many applications," said Tom Murrieta and Radu Cautis, authors of the report. "HA-based products have several advantages over collagen-based ones."
For example, treatments using HA-based products tend to last longer, minimising the number of procedures. Moreover, these products are less likely to cause allergic reactions or pass along animal diseases.
Nevertheless, many patients and healthcare providers remain unaware about the advantages of HA products over collagen.
"To expand the user base for HA products, market participants will have to focus on spreading awareness of their benefits," said Murrieta.
At the same time, market participants need to resolve lingering reimbursement issues.
"Companies are having trouble getting quick, adequate reimbursement," claimed Radu. "In many instances, doctors will limit their use of HA- based products as a direct result of reimbursement difficulties."
Continuing issues will force participants to dedicate resources to tracking and following up with reimbursement claims. Some firms have already created departments for this purpose and have seen improvements in reimbursement speed, the authors concluded.