Single-use syringe

single use syringesyringe barrel plugMany syringes can be reused and shared. Syringes are often discarded in public areas building an infection risk, especially to children.

But what if a needle became useless after its first use?

Development of syringes that can only be used once is a high priority worldwide.

The World Health Organization is asking countries to only use syringes that are automatcally disabled to prevent further widespread of AIDS and Hepatitis. Single use needles are becoming compulsory in some parts of the USA since the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act went into effect.

Some healthcare advocates report that the industry hasn’t yet offered a practical solution; that many devices on the market and in development are more accurately described as ‘difficult to reuse’.

Many workers in the drug addiction sector say that for the same investment much greater public health gains could be had by increasing the availability of needles, preventing mis-use and infection complications. This is because the number of syringes distributed to managed drug users is seldom anywhere near the number of injections administered.

Some new products retract the needle back into the body of the syringe and then lock the plunger out. The unit in the pictures uses a plug in the barrel that cannot be removed once the plunger has been retracted.

A nation can endure high costs and sustained suffering if injection sanitation is not a high priority. If adequate supplies of needles aren’t available, people are tempted to ignore safety techniques.

Today’s factory for syringes can be very compact, automated and efficient. The machines used to form the stainless steel needle tubes and to sharpen the needle tip are surprisingly precise and compact. There seems to be about 100 manufactures worldwide although the industry is dominated by only a few players.

When the USSR was beginning to do business with the west in the very late 1980s, I built a formal proposal to the health ministry in Moscow to build regional factories that would supply as many as three billion disposable syringes. At the time, most syringes in the USSR were stainless steel and inefficiently sterilized in costly steam autoclaves between each use, or often not!

Although single-use syringes were only on the horizon, I wanted this feature if it could be located. Argonne Labs had announced a patent of a small polymer disk – similar to the picture of the plugs above – with one small hole in the center to insert into the barrel before packaging. When liquid contacted the polymer, it would slowly expand, blocking the opening in the barrel – a low cost and effective solution. But the Argonne attorney I spoke with was in no mood to license this patent for use in the USSR.

The project was not funded. The health minister was replaced during one of several shake ups after 1990/91 and I could not achieve attention from new managers.