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Contact: Amy MacIver, PATH, 206.788.2021, media@path.org.

Vaccine injections without needles may reduce health risks and lower costs

Seattle, November 3, 2009—PATH and a drug-delivery technology company are collaborating to bring developing countries safe, effective, and affordable injections without using needles. The new partnership between PATH and PharmaJet, a privately held company, will evaluate a new generation of needle-free injection technologies, including PharmaJet’s needle-free, disposable-syringe jet injectors. These vaccine delivery technologies could reduce health risks and costs associated with traditional needle injections.

The collaboration is part of a PATH-led effort to advance needle-free injection technologies for developing-country immunization programs. PATH is engaging with device developers interested in supplying their devices to low-income countries. Starting in Brazil, where clinical studies are scheduled to begin in early 2010, PATH will evaluate needle-free delivery of a variety of vaccines compared to delivery by needle and syringe. Vaccines to be tested include those to prevent measles-mumps-rubella and yellow fever. PATH and its Brazilian partners also plan to conduct pilot introduction studies and other activities to facilitate adoption of needle-free technologies like the PharmaJet system.

“Disposable-syringe jet injector technology has the potential to provide safer and more affordable vaccines to millions of people around the world,” said Darin Zehrung, team leader for vaccine delivery technologies at PATH. “This collaboration is an important step in our work to explore the regulatory pathway, commercial viability, and sustainability of this class of jet injectors in the developing world and share that knowledge with the entire global health community.”

“Efficient design and use of recyclable materials already ensure very low costs, and now with the help of PATH, we will evaluate strategies to serve a larger base, which could further improve the cost and benefits of needle-free injections,” said Rajen K. Dalal, president and CEO of PharmaJet. “Our business goals are in complete alignment with our ambition to serve the public health needs of three billion people living in low-resource settings around the world.”  

The need for safe injections

The World Health Organization estimates that at least 16 billion injections are given in developing and transitional countries each year. Prior to the introduction of autodisable syringes and a worldwide emphasis on injection safety, health officials estimated that at least 50 percent of injections in developing countries were considered to be unsafe. Unsafe injections can expose individuals to the risk of infections such as HIV, hepatitis B, or hepatitis C. Infection can occur when health workers or patients reuse syringes, contaminate medications with used syringes, or accidentally injure the patient or themselves with a used needle.

While developing countries have begun extensive efforts to improve injection safety, the costs and difficulty of managing ever-growing volumes of vaccine and sharps waste remain an obstacle to safety.

The potential of needle-free jet injectors

Needle-free jet injection has the potential to improve safety by eliminating needles from the process of administering vaccines. Jet injectors create a fine stream of pressurized liquid that penetrates the skin, delivering doses of medications and vaccines while reducing the burden of hazardous waste management. The potential benefits of jet injectors include more consistent delivery, reduced vaccine wastage, elimination of the need to transport large volumes of sharps, and reduction of the risk of needle sticks and of the costs associated with sharps waste.

Jet injectors can also deliver vaccines intradermally. For some vaccines, intradermal delivery has the potential to reduce the amount of vaccine required, leading to cost savings and expanded coverage for vaccines in limited supply. Although previous generations of jet injectors delivered billions of doses of vaccines over the last 60 years, newer devices, like PharmaJet’s system, are more appropriate for the developing world because of their usability, affordability of materials, and improved safety features.

About PATH

PATH is an international nonprofit organization that creates sustainable, culturally relevant solutions, enabling communities worldwide to break longstanding cycles of poor health. By collaborating with diverse public- and private-sector partners, PATH helps provide appropriate health technologies and vital strategies that change the way people think and act. PATH’s work improves global health and well-being.

About PharmaJet

PharmaJet is a privately held drug-delivery technology company that has developed a family of proprietary needle-free injection technologies able to deliver injection of liquid medicines into the body. The depth of delivery can be made to vary from intradermal (the 2-mm thick upper layer of the skin) all the way to intramuscular depths. PharmaJet’s approach to needle-free injectors holds benefit for all constituencies—whether patient or caregiver, vaccine maker or government, researcher or practitioner, hospital or insurer. The company’s technology is being tested in several countries by numerous makers of vaccines and therapeutics, universities, public health clinics, and governments to address clean delivery of injectable medicines—whether in the clinic, for mass vaccination programs, in the home environment, or for promising new site-specific applications. For more information, please visit the PharmaJet website.