Needle Free Injection: History, Types, and Uses (2023)
Time to read 7 min
Time to read 7 min
A needle phobia can make you dread taking medication or insulin injections. And even if you're not afraid of syringes, who likes getting pricked every day by a hypodermic needle?
That's why needle-free injections are gaining popularity.
Needle-free injections allow you to get the most out of your medication without the pain and discomfort of needles.
They're perfect for people with diabetes who take insulin daily and healthcare workers who want to avoid needlestick injuries.
In this article, we'll cover everything you need to know about needle-free injections, including history, types, uses, and more!
A needle-free injection can take injectable medication without using traditional needle syringes. For example, with a needle-free injection device, you could take your daily insulin without needing a hypodermic needle or using an insulin pump.
Needle-free injections are a relatively new technology allowing virtually painless transdermal drug delivery (into your skin layers). This is especially valuable for people with needle phobia.
Several types of needle-free injection systems are available in the market, each with unique features and advantages.
They include spring-powered injectors, powder injectors, and jet injectors.
In some clinical settings, electroporation can deliver DNA vaccines and cancer medications.
The most common type of needle-free injector is the jet injector device, used for vaccines, insulin, hormones, and other pharmaceutical applications. InsuJet is an excellent example of a needle-free jet injector.
Needle-free jet injectors are often called jet gun injectors, air guns, or pneumatic injectors. They can either be single-use, also called DCIJs (disposable cartridge jet injectors) or multi-use, also called MUNJIs (multi-use nozzle jet injectors).
The number of times an injector can be used depends on the type of medication you take and the manufacturer.
For example, InsuJet, a multi-use injector, can be used up to 5,000 times to deliver your daily insulin dose.
Needle-free injections have various mechanisms of action that don't require a syringe to penetrate the skin. As the most common type of needle-free injections, let's examine how jet injectors, such as InsuJet, work.
Jet injectors are filled with liquid medication, such as insulin or vaccines, and a spring-loaded mechanism is activated in the injection system. The spring mechanism traps compressed air inside the medical device, making it ready for a jet injection.
When it's time to take your medication, pressing the button on the needle-free injector will release the drug as a fine jet stream due to the high pressure built up inside.
The jet stream travels at an extremely high velocity and penetrates your skin layers, entering through microscopic pores. The diameter of the jet stream is 3-10 times smaller than that of typical hypodermic needles, making it easier to pass through.
Once the medicine has entered, it disperses evenly and safely into the subcutaneous tissue below the skin.
With needle-free injectors, this process takes less than 1/10 of a second, and you shouldn't feel a thing.
Jet injection, as we know it, is a relatively new method of drug delivery. However, similar techniques have been for centuries, such as aquapuncture, which dates back to the early 1800s.
Aquapuncture was used to deliver jets of water into certain pressure points in the body to relieve neuralgia (nerve pain).
Fast forward to the early 20th century, jet injection devices were developed as we know them today.
However, they were mainly used for clinical studies and lab settings, not for public or commercial use.
Around the 1940s-1950s, the American anesthetist Robert A. Hingson created the first needle-free injector for delivering local anesthesia.
However, it was used repeatedly with different patients and led to an outbreak of Hepatitis B, which is why the
WHO (World Health Organization) restricted its use back then.
It was in the 1990s that significant progress was made in needle-free injection technology. Several companies, such as VitaJet, BioJector, IJect, and InsuJet started producing jet injector variations.
Needle-less injections offer several benefits over traditional needle injections. Here are a few examples:
Needlestick injuries can be a serious occupational hazard for healthcare workers exposed to bloodborne infections such as Hepatitis B and C and HIV.
In fact, the WHO (World Health Organization) estimates that about 43% of healthcare workers were subject to needlestick injuries in 2020.
This can also happen at home if you leave a regular syringe lying around or don't dispose of it properly after taking your medication.
Anyone can pick up the syringe and injure themselves.
Needle-free injections eliminate this risk since there's no blood or needle tip involved in the injections.
Needle-free injectors, such as jet injectors, can improve the penetration and absorption of drugs through your skin tissue.
They ensure the drug is delivered to the correct layer and evenly disperse the drug molecules to facilitate absorption at a molecular level.
A jet injector also delivers the same dose each time, leading to better bioavailability, meaning you get the correct dosage of the drug your body needs.
If you're taking insulin, this allows the insulin to start working quicker, keeping your blood glucose at an optimal level, especially after meals.
Needle phobia is a common fear that affects millions of people worldwide. The CDC (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention) estimates that 2 in 3 children and 1 in 4 adults suffer from needle phobia.
If you live with diabetes and take insulin daily while afraid of needles can be debilitating, even leading to anxiety.
Needle-free injections eliminate the need for traditional needles making your insulin or drug doses much less stressful.
Most multi-use needle-free injectors are environment-friendly since they eliminate the need for disposable syringes.
For example, InsuJet has a reusable nozzle that can be used for up to 14 days without affecting injection performance.
You don't need a separate waste container for needles either because InsuJet's materials can be safely discarded with household waste.
Needle-free injections are painless because the jet streams produced are much smaller than a typical syringe needle.
For example, InsuJet produces a jet stream with a diameter of 150 μm, which is less than the thickness of 2 sheets of regular paper.
This ultra-small diameter is gentle on the skin. It's not likely to cause bleeding, bruising, or skin damage, unlike a traditional syringe which can cause an injection-site reaction.
Needle-free injections are used in several clinical settings and even at home.
Here are a few examples.
Multi-use jet injectors are used for mass immunization, which means giving vaccines to different people with the same device.
They've been successfully used for vaccines like measles, smallpox, HBV, cholera, influenza, and polio, with a rate of up to 1,000 immunizations per hour!
These needle-free injectors played a huge role in completely eradicating smallpox, saving money and time while vaccinating large groups of people.
The only concern when using a needle-free injection for mass immunization is the possibility of cross-contamination.
Single-use needle-free injectors are sometimes used to deliver child and adult vaccines, although they're typically more expensive and less common.
People with diabetes who rely on insulin therapy can benefit the most from a needle-free injection like InsuJet.
Jet injectors deliver precise, needle-free insulin doses each time, allowing you to control your blood sugar levels.
They allow your doctor to determine whether your insulin dose is working without worrying about poor insulin absorption and incorrect injection techniques, which are common with syringes.
Jet injectors are also much easier for people with diabetes who have nerve pain or difficulty holding a syringe and injecting it.
Needle-free injections are also popular delivery methods for growth hormones.
Growth hormone is mainly given to children and adolescents with deficiencies. Many of them have a fear of needles and prefer a needle-free approach.
Studies have also shown that growth hormone gets absorbed much more effectively and reaches blood faster when administered with a jet injector than a traditional syringe.
Needle-free injections are a game-changer in the world of drug administration. They're an excellent, non-invasive way to take your medication without worrying about pain or fear of needles.
If you're a healthcare professional, you don't need to worry about needlestick injuries or catching any blood-borne disease. I
For people who live with insulin-dependent diabetes, a modern needle-free injection system like InsuJet could be the answer to any concerns they might have.