A patent covering a simple design for a safety syringe, which uses a vacuum rather than a spring to retract the needle after use and should be cheaper to manufacture than current products, has been filed in the US by Maxxon Inc.
The safety syringe, designed by Maxxon and partnered with medical device company Globe Medical Tech, has already gone into production and costs no more to make than a regular, non-safety syringe, according to the two companies.
The companies have high hopes for the product - called the Vacuum Operated ReVac Safety Syringe - because despite the premium pricing of current safety syringes their share of the total syringe market is growing fast, driven by factirs such as the rising number of needlestick injuries among healthcare workers and fears about blood-borne diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C virus.
The new patent covers another area of breakthrough technology. The relatively smaller cross section of the plunger, as compared to the barrel, produces a greater corresponding vacuum force to retract the used needle into the barrel. The new invention may also apply to various syringe sizes, shapes and different clinical applications.
The applications in the evaluation and design phase include vacuum operated retractable intravenous catheter and butterfly sets.
Ron Wheet, CEO of Maxxon, said the design of the ReVac has many advantages over competing products, which currently use a steel spring as the force to pull the used needle into the barrel.
"Their design increases manufacturing complexity, has a higher defective rate and forces the cost to swell," he claimed.
An estimated 5.6 million healthcare workers routinely handle medical sharps, and data from the US Centers for Disease Control suggests that 600,000 to 800,000 needlesticks and other injuries occur each year in the US. This has driven the adoption of government regulations - including the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act in the US - regarding syringe needle handling and disposal, and a surge in the use of safety syringes.
In Europe, however, the market for safety syringes is less well developed, according to consultancy firm frost & Sullivan, mainly because of a lack of legislation on the use of these products in healthcare settings and cost issues affecting cash-strapped national heath systems.
Last year, F&S published data suggesting that the European safety syringes market was worth just $13 million in 2003, and was projected to double by 2010. In contrast, other data from the firm suggest that the US market for safety syringes was around $170 million in 1999 and should swell to nearly $700 million by next year.
"I believe the inherent advantages in the Vacuum Operated ReVac Safety Syringe will help the product garner attention, plus the low cost should allow market penetration in markets that other retractable safety syringes can't touch," commented Andy Hu, chief technology officer at Maxxon.