Pointed Debate - Industry experts discuss the benefits and challenges of self-administration of injectable therapies. - BioPharm International


Pointed Debate
Industry experts discuss the benefits and challenges of self-administration of injectable therapies.

BioPharm International
pp. 42-48

Novara (BD): There are two factors that may have contributed to this. First, needle-free technology can be more complex, and there are various safety and operational challenges. Secondly, needles are now available that are very fine, as well as being shorter and less painful than previous generations of needles. Self-injection devices also continue to become more advanced.

Potter (Glide): The needle-free devices that have been commercialized are all liquid jet injectors. These devices work by firing a tiny jet of liquid through the skin. The concept was first patented many decades ago and niche products have been on the market for years. The products are either disposable devices or reusable actuators with a singleuse drug component.

The reusable devices have been used in the past in the developing world and in the military for vaccine studies, but lost favour when the potential for cross-contamination between patients was identified. Single–use jet injectors are expensive and have never been widely used. I believe this is because the benefit of needle-free technology does not outweigh the increase in costs over alternative technologies. Liquid jet injectors will continue to be used for a number of niche products, but they will struggle to increase their market share. However, other technologies in development, some of which are needle-free, are likely to get good market traction as they are commercialized.

Sadowski (Antares): It's not a matter of needle-free having lost traction; it's a matter of the matching the technology to the needs of the patient population. I have no doubt that we will see greater applications of needle-free technology as additional biologic drugs are developed for populations best served by that approach, such as pediatric patients.

BioPharm: What recent groundbreaking innovations have you seen in the area of selfadministration devices?

Kaufman (SHL Group): Ground-breaking is a powerful statement. I have seen a number of significant innovations in the area of autoinjectors over the past seven years, particularly when it comes to the look and the size of devices. Autoinjectors are more discreet and are now available in sizes that are not much bigger than a marker pen, which allows patients to travel and use the devices whenever and wherever they wish without feeling embarrassed. Industrial designers have also worked closely with human factors engineering groups to make several devices (launching soon) that are completely customized to suit the needs of a specific patient group. For example, if rheumatoid arthritis patients have difficulty removing a cap, industrial designers can overcome this by engineering a new solution for cap removal. These may not be groundbreaking, but to me they represent a significant shift in the way devices are being made—working more with patients at the earliest stages and making drug delivery devices that are simple and intuitive.

Novara (BD): The innovations I am very impressed with are the patch injectors/patch pumps. This new technology is allowing companies to deliver therapies, which historically have been infused in a hospital setting, in the privacy and convenience of the patient's home. For example, technology is in development that can allow patients to have continuous infusion at home with a ready-to-use hands-free, device.

Potter (Glide): I believe that the two biggest innovations in the area of self-injection devices are microneedle patches and solid dose injectors.

Patches are being commercialized that incorporate tiny needles to aid the delivery of drugs and vaccines across the skin. The microneedles are either solid and coated in a film of drug; hollow to allow liquid formulations to be pushed through them and into the skin; or solid and made from the drug. The key is to ensure that the microneedles penetrate the skin so that the drug or antigen can be accurately delivered. Several companies are commercializing microneedle patch technologies and these will be suitable for the delivery of a range of peptides, proteins and vaccines.

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