San Francisco Bay Area resident Patrick Totty writes about his experiences living with type 2 diabetesSee all posts »
The Panic in Needle Park
"The Panic in Needle Park” was the name of a 1971 film about an ill-fated love affair between two New York City heroin addicts. (It featured a young actor named Al Pacino in his second-ever Hollywood role.)
By 2022, however, that title might apply to the cohort of companies that manufacture the pens and needles medical patients use to inject drugs. A British information company study predicts that 10 years from now the worldwide market for needle-free injection devices will be worth $4.49 billion—more than quadruple its size in 2011.
What’s driving the spread of “needle-free injection” (NFI), says London-based visiongain (small v) in its report, “Medical Device Leader Series: Top Needle-Free Injection Device Manufacturers 2012-2022,” is a combination of factors.
Once an expensive manufacturing proposition, needle-free injection devices have become popular enough that the cost of producing them is coming down.
Add to that an increase in the number and types of drugs and substances that NFI technology can handle, including vaccines, hormones, and anesthetics.
Most important is the rapidly growing market for pain-free injection technology. As diabetes reaches epidemic proportions in some parts of the world, the number of people who are put off by the prospect of painful self-injections increases dramatically.
So the expected high growth of the NFI market is a good thing. The ability to take necessary drugs painlessly will grow the number of type 2s who are willing to take up insulin therapy but had been holding off doing so out of concerns over needles. It will certainly increase compliance, making it easier for patients to stick to a drug-taking schedule.
In a perfect world, of course, we could all take insulin orally. The problem with that has always been the delicate molecular structure of insulin. Think of insulin as a soufflé and the digestive system as an oven door that an inept cook has just slammed closed with the loudest, most resounding thwack imaginable. Buh-bye, insulin!
The probable way around this—and people are working on it right now—would be to somehow encase insulin in a saliva and digestive enzyme-proof “carrying case” that can protect it on its journey to the small intestine where blood can transport it intact to the rest of the body.
Until that day, though, needle-free sounds pretty good to me.