Use of unsafe syringes causes over 1.3 million deaths the world over each year, according to the World Health Organization. In India, single-use syringes are used for administering vaccines under the government’s immunisation programmes. But 85 per cent of the total syringes are used for curative and therapeutic purposes, and these are many a time used ones. Becton, Dickinson and Company, a global medical technology company, is launching its single-use syringe targeting this segment. Ranjeet Banerjee, vice-president and general manager and Rajnish Rohtagi, director (medical surgical systems) with the company, talk to Sonal Matharu about their product to be launched this month
What is the new product you are going to launch and how will it solve the syringe reuse problem in India? Will the product be affordable for Indians?
Rohtagi: The syringe is designed in a way that once you use it, it locks. The plunger gets locked at the bottom and if you try pulling it back, it snaps. This syringe is already in use in Africa. It will be launched even in the developed world. We have neither decided the name of the product nor firmed-up our pricing strategy. But it will be priced close to what the current product is. Normal syringes cost between Rs 3 and Rs 6 to the patients.
What is your assessment of injection safety in India?
Banerjee: Used syringes are vehicles for transmission of blood-borne diseases like Hepatitis B and C and HIV. Almost 30-40 per cent of new Hepatitis B and C cases occur because of same syringe use. That’s a huge burden of diseases on the society, and it can be prevented. One of the ways to overcome this is to use the right product such as syringes that lock after use.
Rohtagi: Ragpickers are picking syringes for the value of the plastic that can be recycled. But this becomes a legitimate excuse for diverting syringes to somebody who unscrupulously washes it, packs it and puts it back in the wholesale market. So, if you take away the commercial value of that syringe because it gets locked after one use, then there is no alternative for that plastic except to go into plastic recycling which is fine.
How are these syringes different from the ones used in immunisation programmes?
Banerjee: Immunisation syringes account for about 10 to 15 per cent of the total syringes used. These syringes are specifically designed for fixed dose immunisation; so, the delivered volume is 1ml or less and the needle sizes are very consistent. The new syringe is designed for therapeutic or curative application; so, the delivered volume is often 2ml to 10ml.
Rohtagi: Now we are tackling the rest 85 per cent, which is the curative market. Most of these are out-patient settings, the rural parts of the country and the smaller towns. About five to six billion injects are given in India, but the syringes used are between three and four billion. From this, one can estimate the amount of reuse that is going on right now. Every syringe comes with its own needle. So why should there be such a large market of new needles separately? This means people are changing the needle and using the same old syringe.
How is the new syringe more environment friendly?
Banerjee: We built in a lot of green features in the product. The type of materials we are using are much more environment friendly. We did some life cycle analysis (LCA) of the product. LCA is a way to calculate the bio-burden or the impact on the environment for the manufacturer of a product. This syringe has a much lower carbon footprint. Less raw material is used in its production. If half the world were to use the new syringe for all injection needs, over 15 million kilograms of waste would be eliminated. Across the whole life cycle of the product, the impact on the environment is much lower.
How will you manage the waste created by this syringe?
Banerjee: In the US we are doing a total life cycle management programme of our devices. Instead of just selling the device, we partner with other companies and hospitals. The hospital will use our product and then we take back the product. By doing this, we avoid landfill. We process the plastic and reuse it. We don’t put it back into devices, but it could be put into stuff like plastic boards and buckets. We launched that last year in the US and it has been a huge success. We are generating a lot less waste. We could divert more than 70 per cent from landfill.
Do you have a similar plan for India?
Banerjee: This same solution may not work in India because here most of the plastic doesn’t go into landfill due to poor recycling mechanism. But we are committed to finding a similar programme for India.
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