Needle Stick Crisis

Healthcare workers, both in the U.S. and throughout the world, continue to suffer “needless” accidental needlestick injuries because the industry has been slow or reluctant to convert to a fully automatic retractable needle safety device. There are numerous needle devices on the market that are safe in “name only”. Many of these devices require two-handed use with sliding sheaths, hinged needle covers, manual retraction and snap-off plungers. One of the major stumbling blocks to the universal use of a “true” safety syringe has been cost of an automatic retractable device. The SureSafe™ syringe addresses the cost, ease of use and complete safety issues.

Accidental needlestick injuries cause healthcare workers to be exposed to over 20 bloodborne pathogens and other infectious agents including HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. According to the WHO (World Health Organization) 1.3 million people die per year from unsafe injection practices. Despite legislation in the U.S. and the introduction of safe practices around the world, the uptake of safety syringes has been sluggish.

Accidental needlestick injuries to healthcare workers are estimated at between 800,000 to 1,000,000 per year in the United States alone and a similar number reported in Europe. Reports also indicate that many accidental needlestick injuries are neither reported nor documented.

When using the SureSafe™ automatic retractable syringe, the needle is automatically and instantly retracted from the patient into the plunger of the syringe. The syringe is thereby rendered non-reusable and the contaminated needle is not available to prick either the medical worker, patient or disposal agent.

History

The hypodermic syringe was invented in the mid-1840s. Disposable standard syringes have been manufactured since the early 1960s.

In 1978, a medical technician at the University of Wisconsin Hospital contracted hepatitis B from an accidental needlestick injury. The hospital’s Dr. Dennis Maki and Nurse Rita McCormick began groundbreaking research that alerted the medical community to the risk that healthcare workers face from contracting bloodborne diseases via contaminated needles.

Their report, published in 1981, Maki and McCormick determined that many needlestick injuries occurred during recapping attempts and subsequently warned medical workers not to recap needles. Despite the medical community’s realization that hepatitis B and many other bloodborne pathogens were frequently spread by accidental needlestick injuries, it took the deadly spread of HIV/AIDS in the early 1980s to truly focus attention on the need for needle safety devices and procedures.

Cost

Premium safety syringes are priced higher than conventional (unsafe) syringes. The initial higher cost is very misleading as to the true final cost when all the factors are totalled. When comparing the cost of a safety syringe versus a conventional disposable syringe, what must be factored in is the cost of tests following an accidental needlestick injury. The cost of needle disposal must also be included in arriving at the final cost. A huge forgotten cost is the months of anxiety and worry an accidental needlestick injury brings with it to the unfortunate healthcare workers and their families plus the impact on their personal lifestyles throughout the period of testing and retesting.

Calculating that cost

Accidental needlestick injuries occurs approximately once every 6,000 injections given with a conventional disposable syringe.

Whenever an accidental needlestick injury occurs, it is imperative that tests are conducted to determine whether or not a bloodborne disease has been contracted. It may take several months before some pathogens can be detected so follow up testing is necessary. HIV sometimes lies dormant in the human body for up to three years. Such testing is expensive with the average cost being in the region of $3,000.

The cost of testing must be taken into account mathematically in order to arrive at the true cost of a syringe. For each conventional syringe that is used for an injection, the approximate testing cost can be calculated by dividing $3,000 by 6,000. So each injection with a conventional syringe carries a hidden cost (the cost for disease testing of needlestick injury victims) of approx. $0.50. However, SureSafe™ syringes virtually eliminates any risk from accidental needle stick injury, so for each SureSafe™ syringe that is used for an injection the testing cost is essentially zero.

Disposal costs must also be taken into account. This includes the cost of the sharps disposal box plus the cost of transportation to the incineration site and the cost of incineration. For a conventional disposable syringe, the disposal cost is approximately $0.18 each. Any sharps disposal box will hold at least twice as many activated SureSafe™ syringes as conventional syringes.

The true cost of a syringe can be calculated as follows:

Purchase price + testing cost + disposal cost = actual cost

Even if the purchase price of a SureSafe™ syringe were four times as much as the purchase price of a conventional syringe, the actual cost of the conventional syringe would still be more expensive. Assuming a purchase price of $0.08 for a conventional syringe, the actual cost is calculated below:

$0.08 + $0.50 + $0.18 = $0.76

Assuming a purchase price of $0.30 for a SureSafe™ syringe, the actual cost is:

$0.30 + $0.00 + $0.09 = $0.39

An average 250 bed hospital spends between $80,000 to $100,000 per year on the purchase of Sharps containers alone. The overall saving for such a hospital purchasing at least 50% less Sharps containers and the reduced tonnage of infectious waste disposal represents an overall saving of at least $150,000, not to mention the elimination of accidental needlestick injuries and the protection of its healthcare workers.

When these costs are taken into account, it is actually more cost effective to use a SureSafe™ safety syringe than to use a conventional syringe or one of the many so-called semi “safety” syringes that do not effectively prevent reuse, are not single handed activated and safety in “name only”. SureSafe™ not only offers superb protection but also makes excellent economic sense.