Despite lackluster success to date, the market research firm Kalorama is predicting that the worldwide market for jet injectors will double over the next five years. Jet injectors are a needleless drug delivery system that distribute a fine jet of medication under such high pressure that it is able to penetrate the skin.
“Needle-free devices have come a long way to the present state and are playing an increasingly important role in the novel drug delivery technology markets,” Kalorama drug delivery analyst Mary Anne Crandall wrote in a report titled Needle-Free Drug Delivery Markets. She predicts that their ease of use, safety and cost effectiveness, combined with evolving technology, will result in a future boom in jet injector sales.
“Needle free has been a part of insulin marketing for some time,” says Crandall, “And now we are also seeing it with vaccines and [other] treatments.” There are now over a dozen FDA approved needle-free jet injectors on the market, most designed for specific purposes such as administering vaccines, delivering hormone treatments, and administering growth hormone to children.
Bioject’s VitaJet has traditionally been marketed as an insulin jet injector, although it is now being promoted for other home injection applications. There are insulin jet injectors specially designed for children, and even one for dogs and cats, the Zoe Pet Jet.
There are still some limitations to widespread usage of jet injectors. For example, jet injectors can’t efficiently administer drugs intramuscularly. They are well suited to delivering subcutaneous insulin doses, but existing jet injectors are cumbersome compared to an insulin syringe or insulin pen, and require maintenance.
Currently, cost is also an issue, although Crandall believes prices will erode in the near future, spurring further sales. While initially expensive, jet injectors are designed to last for years. The pressurized gas cartridges needed to power many jet injectors (others use a spring loaded device) are an ongoing expense.
The number one issue may be discomfort. Although some diabetics find a needleless insulin injection quite tolerable, many find the pressure required to force the insulin through the skin painful. Some report bruising, swelling and even bleeding at the injection site, although that may be the result of an incorrect injector setting.
There are some obvious benefits to a needle free jet injection system, the most apparent being the option for the needle phobic to avoid needles. Other advantages are the speed and ease of use, safety (no bent or broken needles, or “sharps” to dispose of ), less risk of contamination, a better spread of insulin into the subcutaneous tissue, no scar tissue build up at the injection site, and no need to keep buying syringes.
“Needle-free jet injection devices can and should play a major role in solving the problems of needle stick injuries and needle phobia in the United States,” according to Crandall. With the industry aware of and working on the drawbacks of the promising drug delivery devices, Crandall is probably right.