IV containers are going green

June 18, 2007

Responding to hospital customers' demand for environmentally friendly products, the major intravenous container manufacturers are going "green." Hospira Inc., Baxter Healthcare, and B. Braun Medical are shipping more and more containers made from PVC (polyvinyl chloride)- and DEHP (di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate)-free materials.

Responding to hospital customers' demand for environmentally friendly products, the major intravenous container manufacturers are going "green." Hospira Inc., Baxter Healthcare, and B. Braun Medical are shipping more and more containers made from PVC (polyvinyl chloride)- and DEHP (di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate)-free materials.

Even the Food & Drug Administration has issued a public notification, suggesting the use of non-DEHP medical devices in certain identified applications where the potential for incompatibility with DEHP could exist.

At Catholic Healthcare West (CHW), a five-year plan has been developed to reduce and ultimately phase out the use of PVC/DEHP products. PVC is a commonly used chemical in IV bags that could leach DEHP into the fluid contained in the bags. B. Braun provides CHW with its Excel IV bag product line. The goal is to remove 1,896,509 lb. of PVC material from IV containers. Based in San Francisco, CHW is the eighth-largest hospital system in the nation and the largest not-for-profit hospital provider in California, with a system of 42 hospitals and medical centers in Arizona, California, and Nevada.

Regarding the elimination of the overwrap, Felicelli said, "We were able to advance the material science enough that the material actually incorporates the attributes of the overwrap into the original material." As a result, he noted, Hospira was able to redesign the container and not only improve its environmental impact but also enhance its functionality.

According to Hospira, PVC/DEHP-free material provides thermal stability, moisture-barrier properties, and inertness required for IV medications, while avoiding the leaching linked to PVC. One big safety concern surrounding PVC/DEHP products is the charge that leaching could result in harm to male neonate patients. One theory is that long-term exposure to PVC/DEHP could affect the male reproductive system.

"There definitely is clinical need for a variety of PVC and non-PVC materials. For example, the average person would be surprised to realize how much IV admixture is still done in glass because of issues associated with PVC-containing containers," Bonderud said. "One of the primary areas of need that we recognize is a container that doesn't have any limitations relative to drug admixture. The container that we've launched eliminates the need for glass."

While PVC/DEHP containers are less expensive than glass products, they are more costly to produce than non-PVC/DEHP plastic bags. However, industry analysts note that customer demand for such products is so strong that hospitals and health systems are willing to pay a higher price.

While the pace of adoption of non-PVC/DEHP products is unknown, manufacturers are banking on standardization. "In the future, hospitals will opt not to stock two types of containers," Bonderud said. He sees a trend toward non-PVC/DEHP products among hospital customers and, as a result, Baxter expects to continue to expand its Aviva portfolio as the market evolves.