One size doesn’t fit all for self-injection at PDA Europe

Last month, we were in Vienna at PDA Europe’s Universe of Pre-Filled Syringes and Injection Devices conference, an annual event for industry leaders in the parenteral (injectable) drugs sector.

As exhibitors, we wanted to ask people in the industry to think about how they would self-inject, if they had to. We had four options to choose from: a pre-filled syringe; an autoinjector; ‘I would need someone else to do it for me’ or ‘there must be a better way’.

At present, individuals being prescribed self-injectable medicines may be given a choice (if they are lucky) between a pre-filled syringe and an autoinjector. We speculated that this choice doesn’t adequately recognise or address the variety of human experience and emotion linked with self-injection.

Early results from the voting at our exhibition stand

Although the 1000 delegates at PDA represent the industry, from pharma companies and filling specialists through to device designers and manufacturers, we posed our question not to them as ‘industry representatives’, but rather as human beings.

Excluding the felt voting ball that someone mistook for a Viennese sacher-faschingskrapfen (carnival doughnut), here are the results at the end of an eventful and extremely enjoyable two days:

The results of asking PDA attendees ‘how would you self-inject?’

It’s probably quite telling that in a exhibition hall full of industry professionals, almost half of the respondents voted for ‘there must be a better way’. Clearly there must be room for improvement and that gives medical device designers like us something to ponder. Clever use of technologies such as pumps, micro-needle patches or needle-free might be part of the answer.

Before PDA, we conducted a similar vote back at the office and the majority of our (non-self-injecting) colleagues opted for an autoinjector. They obviously (and rightly) have confidence in their work.

almost a third of would-be self-injectors preferred the relative convenience and simplicity of an autoinjector. Not seeing the needle is often an added benefit.

Although the smallest proportion of PDA attendees would prefer someone else to inject them, almost a third of ‘would-be’ self-injectors preferred the relative convenience and simplicity of an autoinjector. Not seeing the needle is often an added benefit.

What might come as a surprise to some is that almost 20% of our voters would prefer to use a pre-filled syringe, needle and all! However, this does correlate with user research we have conducted where individuals who are regular self-injectors, and who don’t mind the sight of a needle, prefer the increased level of control a pre-filled syringe gives them over any other type of injection device.

The clear split between autoinjectors and pre-filled syringe opens up the discussion as to whether there could be another device category between the two?

On display at the conference was the SelfDose™ which seems to champion this thinking by providing a device which appears to provide enough abstraction from the process to reduce injection anxiety whilst still retaining full control of needle insertion and delivery speed.

This study was clearly in no way scientific but it did start some interesting conversations and highlighted the fact that although convention has established device segmentation, people who do have to self-inject are on a spectrum of comfort with needles – physically and psychologically. Autoinjectors appear to tread a good middle line but the reality really is still ‘one size doesn’t fit all’.

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