The increasing number of Americans suffering arthritis is fueling the sale of orthopedic braces and supports, especially osteoarthritis (OA) braces for the knee. The market for rehabilitative and preventive braces and supports is likely to grow significantly, as this and other musculoskeletal conditions continues to become more common.
New analysis from Frost and Sullivan U.S. Orthopedic Braces and Supports Markets, reveals that the market was worth approximately $1.49 billion in 2005 and is likely to reach $1.83 billion in 2012. Sales of ancillary products such as disposable pain management infusion pumps, cold therapy systems, and spinal orthoses contributed an additional $663 million more to the market in 2005. Revenue growth in these ancillary markets expects to outpace growth for orthopedic braces and supports.
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Use of assistive devices for mobility impairments has increased dramatically over the last decade in the United States, especially due to an aging population, technological advances, public policy initiatives, and changes in the delivery and financing of healthcare. This trend has boosted the orthopedic brace and supports market as well as adjacent markets for orthotics and prosthetics.
Successful segments in the market include osteoarthritis knee braces, pneumatic and diabetic walkers, and shoulder braces and supports. Cold therapy systems and disposable infusion pumps for pain management are other sports medicine products that are experiencing high growth.
The orthopedic braces and supports market is highly competitive and manufacturers with broad product lines are noticeably the market leaders. Several smaller manufacturers continue to prosper within their respective product niches.
The U.S. orthopedic braces and supports market can expect more entrants, but there is stillroom for companies that can develop truly innovative products and technology.
“There is increased demand from clinicians for braces and supports that are injury or surgery specific, especially ones for the knee, ankle, and shoulder,” cites Frost & Sullivan Senior Industry Analyst Charlie Whelan. “If a small company develops and patents a design specific to these indications, generating significant demand from clinicians and payment from insurers, it could lead to significant revenues.”
Manufacturers indicate that in recent years, actual organic growth in the U.S. orthopedic braces and supports market has been very low, with the major competitors growing largely through acquisitions that allow them to enjoy improved economies-of-scale and profit margins. The recent major acquisitions in the industry have opened or expanded distribution channels for the manufacturers. For example, dj Orthopedics' Aircast acquisition will give it even greater access into the hospital market, but it will also open doors to family practitioners and international markets it was formerly weak in. Ossur, an Icelandic company, acquired a number of important U.S. competitors in the orthopedic braces and supports market from 2003 through 2005, expanding its reach significantly in the North American market. When Orthofix acquired its distribution partner, Breg, in 2003, it instantly gained access into the offices and hospitals that the company's representatives were selling into.
Braces and supports are considered commodities and brand loyalty is more difficult to achieve when compared to other orthopedic equipment. The stock and bill programs are being widely adopted as physicians are looking for new revenue streams. However, small manufacturers find these programs hard to support.
“Manufacturers, to prove the benefits of their products, are increasingly resorting to ‘evidence-based marketing’, which is common among high-end medical technology industries,” notes Whelan. “This strategic approach relies heavily on scientific and clinical research attesting to the benefits of a product, either by itself or in comparison to competitors.”
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