Even with widespread reports of side effects worldwide from hernia mesh surgeries, the market for the product is still growing. Current projections for the hernia mesh market place the total size of it at roughly $6 billion by 2027. This figure represents sales of hernia mesh across the globe and is not just limited to the U.S. This forecast includes all different types of hernia mesh, including the fast-growing biological hernia mesh. The hope is that the synthetic polypropylene mesh will make up a lower share of the market as time passes.
There are many different companies that produce some sort of hernia mesh product. Four of the largest companies on the market are Johnson & Johnson’s Ethicon subsidiary, Medtronic’s Covidien, C.R. Bard and Atrium. Each of these manufacturers is currently facing a large number of product liability lawsuits for their polypropylene mesh products. Bard has settled numerous hernia mesh lawsuits including a $184 million settlement in 2011. Each of these manufacturers is currently the defendant in thousands of hernia mesh lawsuits. Bellwether suits in these cases are going to trial this year.
The hernia mesh market is dominated by inguinal hernia surgeries. This is the most common type of hernia and is usually the easiest to repair. Inguinal hernias compose 63% of the hernia mesh market. 3D hernia mesh is also a fast-growing segment of the market even though there have been numerous lawsuits alleging that patients have suffered harm from this type of hernia mesh.
There are currently over 70 different types of hernia mesh on the market. As mentioned above, the most common type of hernia mesh is polypropylene. This is made out of a synthetic material that is used in roofing, cable and packaging. There are several problems with polypropylene mesh. The first is that it is not inert as the manufacturers have represented and it can still cause and conduct infections in the body. The second major problem is that the polypropylene mesh can either shrink or migrate throughout the body, causing damage to nearby internal organs. In a worst-case scenario, the mesh can disintegrate in the body, and it is extremely difficult to remove in follow-up surgeries.
One of the brightest spots in recent research that bodes well for the health of plaintiffs is the growing market share of biological hernia mesh products. These meshes are not made out of synthetic material. Instead, they are made from biological materials that can eventually degrade in the body over time as the hernia repairs. They must hold in place long enough to help the tissue around it repair itself. Biological hernia mesh can be used to repair primary ventral and inguinal hernias.
Biological hernia mesh helps alleviate the problems of shrinkage and mesh migration. The issues that have caused some surgeons to shy away from using biological mesh largely relate to the expensive price of the product. Biological hernia mesh costs a significant amount more than synthetic hernia mesh. However, many doctors are finding the high price worth it since their patients have fewer complications from their surgery.
The market is also expected to grow because more people are having hernia repair surgeries. First, the global population is aging as it is in the United States. Older people are more prone to hernias. In addition, technology and medical care are improving around the world, leading more people to have hernias repaired. Moreover, developments such as robotic surgeries have made the actual surgical process easier, leading to more surgeries. However, when advances in surgery lead to more repairs with synthetic hernia mesh, it actually places more patients at risk of long-term side effects.
One factor that is still constraining the growth of the hernia mesh market is the high cost of the product. In markets such as Africa, only 8-10% of surgeries use hernia mesh due to the costs involved. The plastic mesh costs start at $100 and can cost more than $1,000 depending on how advanced the product is. Biological hernia mesh is many multiples more expensive and can cost anywhere between $1,000-$8,000.
There will be many changes in the hernia mesh market in the coming years. If manufacturers begin to lose the series of hernia mesh lawsuits that they face, they will likely look to safer alternatives. If products such as biological hernia meshes come down in price, they will likely further cut into the market share of polypropylene hernia mesh.