HIV and hepatitis are easily spread through needle sharing. Will the Smart Syringe be the answer we have all been hoping for?
Vaccinations and injections are one of the most common forms of medical administration throughout the world, and so the advantages and disadvantages associated with the practise are felt on a global scale. Especially, when doctors and healthcare workers are reusing syringes, and drug addicts are sharing theirs.
How will the ‘Smart Syringe’ Transform Injection Procedures Worldwide?
The advantages of injections are wide and varying. Factors such as accessibility, cost, effectiveness and availability all make injecting a particularly common and efficient way for countries to immunise their children and to treat their sick. Injecting is particularly popular in developing countries, where people often prefer injections over pills as they believe injections are more technologically advanced and more modern than pills, making them have a faster acting, more positive effect.
The disadvantages of injections, on the other hand, have long been felt. Not just in the developing countries, but in the first world too. The biggest problem that we are faced with when it comes to conventional syringes is that they are easily reused. The tube of the injection was changed from glass to plastic many years ago, as this was more economically viable and it avoided the high break rates that came with the glass tubes. However, this had a backlash effect on the syringes as they can no longer be boiled and sterilised like glass tubes, leaving practically no way to disinfect or sterilise the tubes of plastic syringes.
In developing countries such as India, there is a problem on a massive scale of people going through dumpsters and collecting used needles and selling them back onto the market. This leads to a huge amount of needles being reused in the medical sector and has played a big role in the country’s HIV and hepatitis problems. Another example of needle reuse having devastating effects can be found in a small village in rural Cambodia called Roka, where over 200 people have been infected with HIV through a local doctor reusing his syringes.
In first world countries, however, the main problem arising from syringe reuse revolves around drug addiction. Typically heroin users, taking the drug intravenously, share needles with other drug users which inevitably spreads diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C. A recent World Health Organization (WHO) study showed that in 2010 up to 1.7 million people were infected with Hepatitis B, around 315,000 people got Hepatitis C and 33,800 had gotten the HIV virus through unSmart Syringe use.
In February 2013, WHO announced a new injection safety policy, and a complete transition to the ‘Smart Syringe’ by 2020.
What is a Smart Syringe?
There are various different designs of the new‘Smart Syringe’, which is basically a safety injection that was invented to be a single-use syringe; that is, it breaks completely after a single use making it impossible to reuse. The ‘Smart Syringe’ was patented to slow down and eliminate the spread of diseases through syringe reuse, as well as accidents like doctors pricking themselves and contracting a disease.
Where Did The ‘Smart Syringe’ Come From?
While there are 4 or 5 varying designs of the ‘Smart Syringe’ the most well known and popular of them all was designed and built by a British painter Marc Koska, who had an idea to invent a self-destructing safety syringe after reading that syringe reuse would soon become one of the main ways of spreading the HIV virus.
He created the ‘Lifesaver-Syringe’ and had his first major breakthrough in 1999, when WHO announced that all immunisations had to be done using safe injections or single-use injections. While this was a step in the right direction, realistically immunisations only make up 5% of the 16 million injections given out worldwide. The remaining injections were to continue to be administered by reusable syringes.
In 2006, Marc Koska founded the SafePoint Trust, which he used to spread awareness about the dangers of reusing syringes and showcasing how the ‘Smart Syringe’ could have a huge impact on preventing the spread of diseases.
The announcement of the new WHO ‘Smart Syringe’ mandate is a huge step in the right direction towards not just replacing and fazing out reusable syringes, but they have also added other directions to their campaign. Medical practitioners will be guided and educated on ‘Smart Syringe’ use, manufacturers will be required to switch to a safe design and funders for healthcare in developing countries will be asked to encourage the use of the ‘Smart Syringe’ mandate throughout the world.
How Will Smart Syringes Impact Injection Practices?
After the WHO ‘Smart Syringe’ mandate was announced in February, there has been much discussion and debate about the potential impacts of the ‘Smart Syringes’ on the injection market and the healthcare sector as a whole.
Most opposition comes from people claiming that the ‘Smart Syringe’ is just too expensive to become viable. However, by Kosca’s calculations the use of ‘Smart Syringes’ worldwide, as well as training and awareness campaigns, will have a very significant impact on the number of diseases spread by reuse of syringes. The prevention of these diseases is much cheaper than paying for the treatment of them, and thus he states that countries that adopt the mandate will actually be saving money in the healthcare section.
The mandate of the ‘Smart Syringe’ is a movement that is bound to have a massive impact not just in developing countries, but also in every country around the world. For the first time ever, governments will be able to offer safe and effective immunisations and treatments to all citizens.
The effects will be felt in healthcare facilities worldwide as less and less people will contract the most common diseases spread by injection reuse. This also goes for addiction treatment and drug rehabilitation centres, who will begin to see less and less clients coming in with HIV and Hepatitis as a direct result of needle sharing.
The ‘Smart Syringe’ mandate is one of the most important announcements made by WHO in recent years, and the impact of the process will be increasingly positive, and gives assistance to totally eradicating diseases spread by syringe reuse.