The import-driven US$ 1.5 billion infection control market in Canada offers export opportunities to U.S. manufacturers of infection control products. Infection control products include sterilizers, autoclaves, personal protective wear and equipment, sanitizing gels and disinfectants for rooms and other hospital environments. These products have become mandatory commodities for best practices in the Canadian healthcare system.
Infection control has rapidly grown in Canada under the creation of policies and procedures that minimize the risk of transmission of infectious disease agents from environment to person, person to person, and animal to person. The overall market demand for infection control products and solutions in Canada has increased by over five percent throughout the past five years. Based on market predictions, it is expected to grow at the same pace over the next three years. As a result, U.S. companies exporting infection control products to Canada can expect at the least sustained demand in the coming few years.
Surgical gowns and drapes represent the largest share of infection prevention demand with supply revenues of US$ 390 million. The excellent growth prospect for this category of products is mainly due to the development of enhanced infection barrier levels for textiles. In addition, the predictable growth in the number of surgical procedures will push demand for patient preparation kits and scrubs.
Increased demand for infection control solutions in Canadian health establishments can be attributed to a variety of factors. However, over the past few years, the leading factors were outbreaks that appeared not to be anticipated by health authorities. These outbreaks are the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), and the Clostridium difficile (C difficile), respectively intense in hospitals located in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. Other important factors that have contributed to the growth of the infection control market in Canada include increased urbanization, and more frequent and faster travel.
This report seeks to shed light on the current state of infection control demand in Canada and opportunities for U.S. firms selling or planning to sell in Canada.
Chiefly due to the emergence of SARS, Clostridium difficile, and new strains of influenza, demand for infection control solutions in Canadian hospitals and other healthcare facilities has increased at an annual rate exceeding 5 percent over the past five years to reach a value of US$ 1.5 billion. This growth in demand also reflects increased susceptibility to new infections acquired in Canadian healthcare facilities and the implementation of improved preventative measures taken by healthcare workers to contain new outbreaks.
Among all infection control products, sales of items used during surgeries such as surgical drapes and gowns should draw in the highest revenues, with demand increasing by about 4 percent annually to reach US$ 390 million in 2007. According to industry sources, growth rates in the medical textile market have been above average in past few years. In 2003, Canadian healthcare facilities spent over US$ 300 million on surgical drapes alone. The success of these products is related to an increasing number of operative procedures, as well as to an elevated risk of blood-born pathogens in hospitals. Canadian provinces with large numbers of healthcare workers such as Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia, account for more than two thirds of market demand in Canada.
Other than surgical drapes and gowns, a variety of infection control products are in high demand from Canadian healthcare facilities. These products include hand sanitizers, disinfectants, autoclaves and air filtration systems, which should all experience steady growth in demand over the next five years. Here is a more in-depth look at demand for these successful products.
Leading Infection Control Products
Over 50 percent of hospital-acquired infections are related to poor hand hygiene practices. Since the single most effective way to reduce the incidence of infection is hand washing, antimicrobial liquids have become highly popular in the Canadian market, particularly with health care professionals, but also with hospital patients and visitors. Several studies have revealed that waterless hand scrubs and antiseptic agents are more effective in decreasing the risk of transmission than hand washing with soap and water. It has been recognized by Canadian health authorities that alcohol preparations offer rapid reductions in microbial counts on skin, are convenient when working with patients, and are also more practical when there is limited time to wash hands. Alcohol preparations containing more than 60 percent alcohol are designed to kill 99.99 percent of bacteria in less than 15 seconds. This product’s proven efficacy and rapid results obtained has caused demand to grow from US$ 4 million to US$ 52 million in the past five years to now reach a certain level of saturation. However, demand is expected to continue to increase at a rapid pace, by 6 to 10 percent annually over the next three years.
In 2007, many Canadian healthcare facilities, particularly in Ontario, have come to the realization that the reduction of hospital-acquired methicillen-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) still has a long way to go before complete eradication. Even with installed alcohol hand rubs in corridors and patient bed sides it is estimated that 220,000 Canadian patients still suffer from hospital-acquired infections annually. A recent study by the Canadian Nosocomial Infection Surveillance Program (CNISP) group has revealed that one of ten patients admitted leave the hospital with an infection. Although hand hygiene is a simple measure that can reduce in half the number of hospital acquired infections, of which MRSA is one type, there is a lot of campaigning to do to get the entire healthcare community to fully adhere to the measures. More can be done to improve hand hygiene and the wearing of gowns, gloves, masks along with special antiseptics in certain situations.
Disinfectants are also among the most popular infection control products. In fact, Canada’s $280 million disinfectant market is expected to grow by about 4 percent annually. This growth is largely attributed to increased pressures on health care facilities to assume stricter cleaning and staff hygiene procedures, especially since a combination of cleaning, disinfecting, and sterilizing is essential to limit the transmission of organisms related to reusable patient care equipment. Within the overall disinfectant market, total surgical disinfectant demand is expected to increase annually to US$ 73.5 million by 2011.
Both manual and automatic autoclaves that use steam to sterilize equipment are in high demand in Canadian health facilities. Autoclaves effectively ensure the sterility of objects by eliminating all bacteria, viruses and spores. Since Canadian companies generally do not manufacture this type of equipment, the market for autoclaves relies heavily on imports. According to market experts, the life science sector provides substantial sales prospects for a variety of sterilization equipment and supplies. Canadian imports of sterilizing equipment have doubled from 2001 to 2006 reaching a value of US$ 30 million. U.S. companies that manufacture sterilization equipment should research opportunities in the Canadian life science sector to position themselves with an extra advantage.
The trend for upgrading medical and life science infection control standards should also produce growth opportunities for medical and laboratory waste disposal equipment and services. U.S. firms seeking to expand their business into the Canadian infection control market should note that high demand exists for safe, economical, and effective medical waste management equipment.
Recent History of Infection Control in Canada
One of the most devastating and eye-opening infectious outbreaks in Canada was the 2003 SARS epidemic in the metropolitan Toronto area, during which approximately 250 individuals were diagnosed with the virus and 17 percent of those individuals died. Statistics provided by the World Health Organization show that 43 percent of infected individuals were healthcare workers who were exposed to the virus before the implementation of infection control precautions. Since many cases of SARS could have been prevented, this wide scale outbreak dramatically showcased the need for the Canadian general public and healthcare workers in particular to take necessary precautions such as frequent hand washing/sanitizing and the use of personal protective equipment.
Although SARS is no longer a threat to Canadians, other infectious diseases have fooled healthcare workers’ vigilance and are currently taking a toll on Canadian hospital patients. Each year, approximately 200,000 people admitted to hospitals in Canada contract nosocomial infections such as Clostridium difficile (C difficile) and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, of which still too many infected individuals die. The continued presence of this harmful microorganism is influenced by a variety of factors, including: the number of people in a particular environment, the amount of moisture, the presence of material capable of supporting microbial growth, and the type of surface or orientation. Since C difficile is spread when people touch contaminated surfaces, thorough environmental cleaning and disinfection are particularly crucial. These hospital-acquired infectious diseases have not received the same amount of publicity as the SARS epidemic; nonetheless they have claimed a much larger number of victims in Canada, particularly in Quebec.
In response to the increased transmission of infection in healthcare facilities, Canada’s provincial governments who are responsible for the delivery of healthcare services have implemented procedures to control the spread of infectious disease. One particular example is the Ontario provincial government, which has created a committee and sub-committee on Infection Prevention and Control. Overall, these committees seek to produce improve infection control awareness through the publication of best practice documents for health care facilities and patients. Thus far these committees have developed a series of recommendations on vaccine use in Ontario, and also established an Immunization Committee. Other initiatives taken by the Ontario government include the Influenza Immunization Program, which allows all residents of Ontario to get a free influenza vaccine. Since influenza kills 500-1000 Canadians each year, Ontario’s accessible influenza vaccines aim to significantly lower the mortality rate among Ontario residents.
The Alberta government has also taken measures to establish stricter standards for cleaning and sterilizing instruments following the 2003 “superbug” outbreak that infected 130 people in a hospital in the city Vegreville. With increasingly stringent regulations in healthcare facilities comes an increased demand for effective infection control solutions. Especially in provinces that have experienced outbreaks of infections such as Ontario, Quebec and Alberta, U.S. firms should discover many opportunities to export their infection control products.
By Pierre Richer