Nobody enjoys getting stuck with a needle. But they aren’t just a painful nuisance; for health-care workers, law enforcement and anyone else unlucky enough to be accidentally poked by a syringe, needle-stick injuries are a serious occupational hazard that can spread diseases such as hepatitis B and HIV. On top of that, many people avoid getting vaccinated due to a fear of needles, leading to costly doctor visits when they get sick, and undermining larger immunization efforts.
PharmaJet, based out of Golden, Colo., is trying to change that. The privately held medical device company has created a needle-free injection system that shoots a tiny stream of liquid straight into your tissue. Needle-free injection is hardly a new concept—air-gun-like jet injectors have been used for mass vaccinations since the 1950s. The first generation of these designs required bulky gas canisters and would sometimes become contaminated and cause outbreaks of disease.
PharmaJet’s systems, however, are portable and employ single-use “syringes” that can be safely disposed of with no danger of someone being accidentally pricked.
While PharmaJet has gotten a number of contracts with public health departments and pharmacy chains in the U.S., needles continue to dominate the market, largely because at 6¢ a pop, they’re incredibly cheap. The cost of going needle-free? About $300 for the device, and a cost of 30¢ to a dollar for each single-use “syringe.”