Case study exploration: looking at parenteral devices and their carbon footprint
By looking at three injector products (a pre-filled syringe, a generic autoinjector device and an autoinjector with a connectivity module) each with different levels of complexity and user needs, we can see the difference between their carbon usage.
A Life Cycle Assessment doesn’t answer the question of: which one is the ‘best solution’, but rather: what is the impact of choosing each of these medical devices.
At the early stage of your medical device development process, your team can carry out an environmental assessment like this one to give you an idea as to what the overall impact is likely to be and then balance that against the wider picture.
The systems we’ll be looking at are:
1. Low complexity system – A pre-filled syringe with a needle safety shield, with 8 components (including the primary container and needle) and a total mass of 8g.
2. Complex – This is a generic auto-injector device, spring powered for intramuscular or subcutaneous injection (not for emergency use) with 14 components (including the primary container and needle) and a total mass of 35g.
3. Advanced – Finally, we have an autoinjector with an added connectivity module with sensing capabilities to monitor and record a range of important use-related information. Data can be relayed in real time to the user via Bluetooth wireless technology to a supporting mobile app.
1. Low complexity prefilled syringe
By estimating the components that might go into the device and running them through the Life Cycle Assessment database, we can get an indication of its carbon footprint. This is very much looking at the manufacturing process, examining each component by the material it’s created from.
From these results, we can determine that there is a carbon footprint of just under 50 grams of carbon dioxide equivalent compared to a mass of around 8 grams – making it a simple device with a low total mass and low carbon footprint.
2. More complex auto-injectors
Amore complex autoinjector with a spring inside of the device, a primary package and a larger mass in terms of the plastic and metal surrounding will ultimately have a higher carbon footprint.
We’ve moved from a low complexity device of about 8 grams to one of about 35 grams, but our carbon footprint has increased to almost 130 grams. However, given the fact it is an auto-injector rather than a safety system, there is a lot of extra functionality that many users will find helpful.
3. Connected auto-injector
Finally, let’s move on to the potential impact of a connected auto-injector. In this example, the autoinjector has a connectivity module added to it, which can be incredibly beneficial to users. Connectivity might help patients manage their conditions, potentially reducing mortality and hospital admissions.
However, 70% of the carbon footprint of this device comes from the electronics module, jumping up from 130 grams of C02 to over 400 grams for this product.
Just by adding this functionality, we can see that it increases the carbon footprint by three times.
Comparing the findings sourced by the Life Cycle Assessments, it’s easy to understand that the connected auto-injector has a significantly larger impact than the simple syringe and the standard auto-injector. However, the connected auto-injector also adds significant additional functionality, which must be taken into account.