Europe's contrast media market strongly tied to medical imaging equipment industry

London 08 October 2002The lacklustre performance and sluggish growth of recent years, against a backdrop of deepening market maturity, have cast doubt over the future of Europe's contrast media industry, worth $684 million in 2001. A new study by Frost & Sullivan, the international marketing consulting company, highlights the arrival of new diagnostic imaging technologies requiring limited doses of contrasting agents or rendering any administration of the solution obsolete, as a key factor depressing sales.


The silver lining in this particular cloud is that medical institutions are ramping up imaging equipment installations, necessitating consumption in radiological examinations which will continue to require the use of contrast media for imaging.

Furthermore, the growing number of advanced and faster imaging equipment installations will augment patient throughput and the number of procedures carried out. The usage of compatible contrast media for imaging procedures becomes essential to enhance imaging productivity and accuracy. These factors will play a pivotal role in pushing the sales in the overall European contrast media market to $915 million in 2008.

Contrast media increase contrast between the target organ and surrounding tissues in the four main technological modalities of X-ray, computerised tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and ultrasound.

The emerging star performer and the most buoyant segment in the contrast media arena, MRI, is the major force accelerating momentum behind market growth. The rising popularity of MRI as a reliable imaging tool is stimulating innovation and will prompt the launch of a substantial number of MRI contrasting agents. The defection from the conventional X-ray modality, which will also have a favourable effect on CT contrast media, is further poised to breathe new life into the MRI segment.

MRI and ultrasound applications will be encroaching on the CT/X-ray sector's continued ubiquity, reducing the dominant sector's share to 60,7 percent of total European contrast media sales in 2008. The price-sensitive nature of the market, compounded by price erosion as well as the pronounced saturation of the X-ray segment, are cited as growth-curtailing aspects of the European contrast media market.

Sumit Sharma, Research Analyst at Frost & Sullivan, stressed that the contrast media industry's fortunes are tied to the performance of the medical imaging equipment market. "The penetration of medical imaging equipment will fuel demand for contrasting agents. Since many parts of Europe remain untapped by the imaging equipment industry, there are significant opportunities for increasing the installed base", he added.

Easing pressure on health care budgets across high-volume markets like the United Kingdom, France, and Spain will pave the way for rising uptake of new medical imaging equipments and usage of high quality contrasting agents. Changing demographics and Europe's aging population will also provide impetus for growth.

The CT modality field has experienced the highest volume of procedures using contrasting agents. The astonishing number of almost 12,2 million CT procedures carried out in Europe in 2001, involving the usage of contrasting agents, has propelled this sector to the top spot in terms of demand centres for contrasting agents in Europe.

Mr. Sharma commented: "Low levels of product differentiation and increasing price sensitivity among end-users are forcing vendors to compete on price in order to deepen their penetration. However, around the mid to late maturity stage, it is expected that price stability will take place in the market because of falling costs of production, economies of scale, and demand for need- fulfilling products."

Market saturation is expected to occur due to new imaging technologies completely minimising the usage of contrasting agents in many imaging procedures. Over the forecast period, the market will be awash with novel products that support new imaging equipments being installed. These new launches, boasting superior features, could potentially generate higher revenues in their nascency. "This is mainly due to the fact that every new addition to the product line increases clinical value and hence, end-users are willing to pay a higher price", Mr. Sharma explained.

Frost & Sullivan believes that the industry will observe a closer working environment between the contrast media industry and the imaging equipment industry. The primary objective of this trend would be the development of new contrasting agents that are complementary to the new technology-driven imaging equipments.

The industry is comprised of a large number of contrast media companies in Europe. However, the market is dominated by the top three players, namely Bracco, Schering, and Amersham Health, who together control close to 80 percent of the market. These companies capitalise on their financial strength and Research & Development (R&D) capabilities to maintain their supremacy in the marketplace.

A large number of smaller companies and regional players including Mallinckrodt-Tyco, Guerbet, and Abbott Laboratories, have also gained a foothold in the market, but their influence is only marginal. The study on the European contrast media market is available at the price of 5000 Euros and can be ordered by contacting Mrs. Katja Feick of Frost & Sullivan.

Leslie Versweyveld

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