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Wound care products' rising costs precipitate upmarket shift among suppliers

Curative dressings and adhesive bandages are taking over basic models as makers move upmarket.

China suppliers of wound care products are prioritizing functional models under efforts to shift to the upscale market and boost profit margins. Many manufacturers are veering away from basic pieces as a means of coping with the rising cost of raw materials such as cotton, PVC and PE. Improving design performance, and strengthening manufacturing efficiency and capability are companies' other ways of parrying the effects of greater outlay.

Wound plaster
This wound plaster from Shanghai Xuerui comes in PE and PVC.

In providing more effective medical items, makers are responding to the needs of the aging population, which is among the target end-users in the premium segment. Industry players anticipate requests for curative versions will increase as these allow for faster healing and enhanced convenience.

The selection includes dressings containing silver ions that combine with apoenzymes to deactivate the proteins, killing bacteria and viruses, and preventing them from multiplying. Such models likewise augment zinc, calcium and copper density in wounds for a speedy recovery.

Ningbo Bosheng Medical Technology Co. Ltd is one of the makers offering this type of products. The supplier has released a design in nonwoven fabric with nanosilver. The item is effective in absorbing exudates and acts as a physical barrier to keep out bacteria. The new material, however, is 30 to 50 percent more expensive compared with regular variants.

Several manufacturers are increasing utilization of imported nonwoven fabric to enhance product performance. China Harbin Yeekong Herb Inc. sources the textile from Japan. Although costing three to five times greater than domestic substitutes, the former boasts better medicine absorption.

Meanwhile, Shanghai Oriland Group Medical Products Mfy carries pieces with activated carbon. In addition, it has designed an elastic bandage model specifically for athletes.

Aside from silver ion wound dressings, China suppliers offer polymeric foam and film, alginate, hydrogel and hydrocolloid options. The items' porous composition enables faster and greater saturation. The last two versions form a gel to protect the injury. The semipermeable PU film layer is water resistant and blocks bacteria, allowing the patient to shower without the risk of infection.

Besides shifting product categories, companies are boosting operating efficiency and capacity by setting up training courses for employees and building new factories. China Harbin Yeekong has carried out such measures.

Suppliers are adopting strategies of weathering cost increases as surging raw material outlay alone pushed them to impose price adjustments of 10 to 15 percent in 2010. Rates of leaf grade 3 cotton, for instance, doubled from the previous cycle to at least $4,200 per ton in November.

Soaring costs are caused by the ongoing cotton shortage, which is due to some farmers shifting crop varieties to overcome the huge loss they incurred during the economic downturn. In 2008-09, the planting area for the shrub diminished by 20 percent.

Additionally, India limited its export of the material to prioritize and ensure domestic needs. Beginning October last year, the country has imposed a tax-free quota of up to 5.5 million bags only.

Although China produced 7.5 million tons of cotton in 2009-10, representing 30 percent of the global output, supply is still not enough to sustain demand. The manufacturers' greater requirements are a result of industries, including garments and home textiles, bouncing back from the recent crisis.

Further, in November, PVC climbed from $1,300 to $1,450 per ton, while PE reached between $1,700 and $2,200. These show 35 and 13 percent YoY growth, respectively.

Besides climbing material outlay, labor expenses surged by 10 to 25 percent last year. Among the affected companies are Shanghai Oriland, Ningbo Bosheng and China Harbin Yeekong, recording increases of 21, 20 and 25 percent.

The yuan's appreciation is making the situation worse for exporters. Since it affects final prices directly, the consequences are more significant. Last November, the currency's value against the US dollar hit 6.64, registering a rise of almost 3 percent YoY.

Wound care products
Product gallery

Wound plaster
Shanghai Oriland’s wound plaster may come in custom designs.
Wound care products

China suppliers offer three types in this category, varying in material and healing capability.

Despite the ongoing shift to upscale variants, traditional products such as absorbent cotton, gauzes and bandages continue to dominate exports. Combined, these account for 80 to 90 percent of the country's total overseas shipments in the line. China sent 75.9 million pieces abroad from January to August 2010, generating $418 million in sales. The volume rose by only 0.5 percent compared with the previous year, but value climbed by almost 5 percent.

Adhesive versions, however, are growing at a faster rate. Within the same period, exports of such products topped 10.6 million pieces at $95.6 million, registering 15 and 50 percent YoY growth, respectively.

Overall, the country's exports in the line account for 20 percent of the worldwide market. Manufacturers bank on a rich supply of domestic cotton, which has short fibers and less sugar, making the material suitable for medical use.

Polymeric dressings: These come in foam and film versions, with the latter available in PU, PE and PVC. Although permeable, the pieces are good at blocking bacteria, keeping the wound surface moist and preventing clinging to the skin.

Several releases are transparent, allowing for convenient monitoring of the injury. Some are adhesive. Prices range from $0.10 to $3.

Anti-bacterial dressings: The selection of wound care products that can kill bacteria comprises hydrogel, hydrocolloid, alginate and silver ion dressings.

These have chemicals to hasten recovery. Such versions are effective in absorbing and stopping exudates, including blood. The capacity is also greater, requiring fewer changes at longer intervals.

Alginate pieces, in particular, are considered environment-friendly because of their biodegradability. The prices are between $0.40 and $7, with some exceeding the latter.

Traditional pads: These are used to cover injuries for protection. The selection consists of cotton, gauzes and bandages.

The items have strong absorption characteristics, but are not very effective in keeping out bacteria and preventing infection. In addition, the dressings stick easily to the skin, causing pain to the patient during changing.

Such products, however, are very economical because they require inexpensive raw materials and simple processes. Absorbent cotton variants range from $0.10 to $4 per roll, weighing between 25 and 1,000g.

Gauzes in the same material go for $1.60 to $2 per roll, available in 10x100 and 20x100cm.

Carbon Fiber Wound Dressing
Product gallery

Ningbo Bosheng Medical Technology Co. Ltd

Model: Carbon Fiber Wound Dressing
MOQ: 50,000 pieces
Delivery: 15 to 20 days
Description: Activated carbon fiber, sterile net membrane, pressure-sensitive nonwoven fabric and centrifugal paper; prevents reflux of effusions; strong permeability and absorbency; anti-inflammatory; promotes growth of granulation and epithelium; convenient application and removal; FDA, CE

Nano Silver Wound Dressing

Ningbo Bosheng Medical Technology Co. Ltd

Model: Nano Silver Wound Dressing
MOQ: 50,000 pieces
Delivery: 15 to 20 days
Description: Silver-containing absorbent, pressure-sensitive nonwoven fabric, release paper; 1g of absorbent pad can sustain at least 10g of water; '¥100mg/kg; available in 60x80, 150x90, 200x90, 250x90, 350x90 and 140x160mm; FDA, CE

Cotton bandage

Shanghai Neo-Medical Import & Export Co. Ltd

Model: AB-1
MOQ: 50,000 pieces
Delivery: 20 days
Description: Cotton bandage; nonwoven; flexible; 50x45, 100x45, 75x45 and 150x45mm; CE

Adhesive bandage

Shanghai Neo-Medical Import & Export Co. Ltd

Model: NM-104
MOQ: 500,000 pieces
Delivery: 30 days
Description: Adhesive bandage; 72x19, 76x45, 40x12, 72x25, 76x3, 38x38, 76x19, 45x51, 55x18 and 76x25mm

Wound plaster

Shanghai Oriland Group Medical Products Mfy

Model: OT98038
MOQ: 1 million pieces
Delivery: 10 to 12 days
Price: $0.275 FOB per box
Description: Wound plaster; cotton fabric; skin tone; 70x18 standard, 56x19, 72x19 and 76x19mm optional sizes; 100 pieces per box, 100 boxes in carton; CE

Wound plaster

Shanghai Oriland Group Medical Products Mfy

Model: OT98122
MOQ: 1 million pieces
Delivery: 15 to 18 days
Price: $0.73 FOB per box
Description: Wound plaster; PVC; perforated; custom designs accepted; 19mm long; 56, 72 and 76 widths;100 pieces per box; 100 boxes in carton; CE

Wound Dressing

Shanghai Xuerui Imp. & Exp. Co. Ltd

Model: Wound Dressing
MOQ: 10,000 pieces
Delivery: 30 days
Description: Nonwoven; various sizes; CE, FDA

Gauze Swab

Shanghai Xuerui Imp. & Exp. Co. Ltd

Model: Gauze Swab
MOQ: 100,000 pieces
Delivery: 30 days
Description: Cotton; mesh; can be folded; various sizes; CE

Note:This article was originally published by Global Sources, a leading business-to-business media company and a primary facilitator of trade with China manufacturers and India suppliers, providing essential sourcing information to volume buyers through our e-magazines, trade shows and industry research.

All price quotes in this report are in US dollars unless otherwise specified. FOB prices were provided by the companies interviewed only as reference prices at the time of interview and may have changed.

Disclaimer: All product images are provided by the companies interviewed and are for reference purposes only. Those product images featuring products with trademarks, brand names or logos are not intended for sale. We, our affiliates, and our affiliates' respective directors, officers, employees, representatives, agents or contractors, do not accept and will not have any responsibility or liability for product images (or any part thereof) which infringe on any intellectual property or other rights of a third party.

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