Needle-Free Technology & Self-Injecting

Having recently written about the issues surrounding needle-stick injuries in my post Having a Stab at Innovation, and the fact that even though there have been many innovative attempts to reduce the incidence of these occurrences, they still seem to be on the rise. I've been considering the options.

Adele Graham-King

My mental meanderings led me to consider needle-free technology. In short, seeing as we (nearly) all hate needles and injections, and using needle-free techniques should eliminate the "scary factor" as well as the safety issues, why is it that in the main we haven't adopted such technology en masse?

Needle-free technology has been around for several decades commercially. In simple terms, the procedure is performed by creating a pulse of pressure against the skin in order to open the pores and driving particles through the skin into the body. Historically, needle-free systems have had their issues with pain and bruising due to the amount of pressure that is required to "push" active substances far enough into the system, and there have also been issues with cross-contamination until the invention of disposable cartridges, but it still doesn't explain the lack of uptake.

The obvious targets to me, for this type of injecting technique, seem to be diabetes and mass vaccination programmes. There have been a large number of bioavailability studies in both these areas, and in general the needle-free techniques illustrate comparable profiles... So still I am perplexed. There is the cost, which is obviously elevated compared to a simple needle and syringe, but not compared to technically advanced, interactive, and responsive "needle-using" pen systems.

I have therefore come to the conclusion that the lack of uptake of such technology must be down to the user experience (Ux), ergonomics, and human factors. Many of the devices look very clinical, aren't aesthetically oriented, and usage isn't simple. Could there be a solution on the horizon?

I recently read an article that introduced new devices in development by MIT Canada. They have historically developed needle-free injection devices for veterinary use and more recently human use, and have injection devices licenced for use in both these areas, but none of these devices are for self-medication. MIT is in the process of developing a new needle-free injection device aimed at self-medicating via subcutaneous, intradermal, or intramuscular route.

Their new developments seem to be taking on board the impact of user focus in design and their aim is to market a simple, handheld injector with an auto-disabling disposable cartridge and simple functionality. At the same time they have in development a "dart" for intradermal applications, such as vaccinations. Aiming to have FDA approval for their human vaccine device in 2013, their self-injector may not be too far behind. Maybe there is light at the end of tunnel and the needle could become a thing of the past.

Focused on medical packaging design and technology?

Adele Graham-King, Blogger

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