As we noted last week, one particularly fun thing about about attending the AADE's Annual Meeting is the plethora of consumer and patient-facing products on display. This year, we saw three interesting things aimed at alleviating the pain of shots and finger pricks — a very minor concern for doctors, probably, but potentially HUGE for those of us who hate needles (which I'm assuming includes all of us!)
This thing caught our attention right away. In a sea of beige-plastic, clinical-looking devices, who could miss something that looks like a happy little bumble bee? It's actually a device designed to numb the skin and "distract the nerves" to "reduce pain on contact." To alleviate pain, Buzzy vibrates and soothes the skin with an "ice wing" — a cold pouch that you freeze and then attach to the Buzzy for use. The vibration and cold distract nearby nerves to reduce pain during an injection, similar to how running cold water over your finger helps a burn.
Buzzy is the brainchild of Dr. Amy Baxter, an emergency room pediatrician based in Atlanta, GA. She developed it for all sorts of situations in which children encounter needles. She writes: "For newly diagnosed diabetic children, the medical community has a history of expecting kids to just get used to needle pain. For shots, for bee stings, for boo-boos, for injected medicines... for all acute pain management, we developed Buzzy to put instant pain management in YOUR hands."
Several randomized studies actually showed that using simple vibration and cold can make a huge difference: "The more needle anxiety subjects had, the better Buzzy worked, with a significant reduction for each centimeter of increased anxiety on a 10 centimeter scale, suggesting those who fear needles may have more sensitive nerves."
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The Buzzy team also created flashcards called "Bee-Stractors" with pictures and trivia questions to keep children occupied during an exam or injection. Buzzy retails for $34.95, but for an extra $5, you can also get a set of the Bee-Stractor cards.
Something cool for the CWD crowd, I'd say! We love the aesthetic on this one. As Dr. Baxter notes, looking around the medical-device world, "How hard is it to design something cute?"
Sofstic is another take on using vibration to reduce the pain and discomfort of shots. It's a patent-pending stick device that looks a little like a mini-electric toothbrush. The tip sports a pronged plastic circle that creates "gentle vibration 360 degrees proximal to the needle... (which) inhibits pain signals from reaching the brain." It's based on the so-called "gate control" theory of pain, which essentially states that pain transmission cell activity can be inhibited by other contact in the area (why we rub a smack).
To use it, you have to hold the Sofstic in place on your skin, and then insert the needle in the middle of the vibrating plastic circle. Sound weird? Indeed, it might be a little awkward to use on yourself while attempting to give an injection. But the folks in the Sofstic booth at AADE brushed that aside. "It's easy on your abdomen or thighs," they said. They also indicated they're not in direct competition with Buzzy, as they're going after type 2s resisting insulin shots. But here's an interesting tidbit: the Buzzy team told us that Sofstic originally ripped off their concept by calling their product "Numblebee" (see LLC company name in image) — until the Buzzy folks issued a cease and desist order. Now it's the called the Sofstic. Click here for a YouTube video of how it works if you're interested.
A Nod to Inject-Ease
This is the most boring of the three, certainly in terms of aesthetics. Inject-Ease is a beige-plastic, clinical-looking device that encapsulates the syringe, so you don't need to see the needle penetrate your skin. The "special tip and technique" apparently reduce pain by "masking the needle puncture." It's designed specifically for use with BD insulin syringes - 30, 50 or 100 units.
For those with serious fear of injections, it has some useful features & benefits:
Designed for one-handed use, so it allows access to hard-to-reach injection sites
One-button ease of use - ideal for those with limited dexterity and coordination
Comes with spacer rings for customization of injection depth
Convenient for travel - insulin can be preloaded into the device
Know someone (maybe someone older?) who needs help with injections? You can buy this one on Amazon.com for $26.95.