The federal government needs to look strategically at how it spends taxpayer dollars on medical technology. They should consider efficient drug allocation and safety when setting priorities. We’ve come a long way since an extra vaccine was tossed in the trash and medical professionals learned there was a massive destruction of unused vaccines for no good reason.
In December 2020, pharmacists discovered extra doses in glass vials said to contain five doses of the Pfizer vaccine and were unsure what to do with the extra medicine. Politico reported on Dec. 16, 2020 that “pharmacists have found a way to extract additional doses from Pfizer’s vaccine vials, potentially increasing the country’s scarce supply by up to 40%.” The New York Times reported the same day: “As boxes of Pfizer vaccines began arriving in the country this week, hospital pharmacists made a startling discovery: Some of the glass vials said to hold five doses contained enough for a sixth. – or even a seventh person. It was then that pharmacists threw away the leftovers because they feared they would violate the strict rules the government had established for the distribution of vaccines.
It makes no sense to continue wasting our precious pharmaceutical resources. The US government has a strong interest in saving drugs when they are so expensive. Much of the cost of these drugs is passed on to taxpayers through COVID-19 relief programs and government-funded healthcare programs.
While pharmaceutical companies are creating the most advanced injectable drugs in record time, the technology used to deliver the drug is poor. Poor syringe technology is a problem that needs to be addressed.
The needle and syringe combination determines the number of doses obtained from one vial. The number of doses determines the number of lives saved. With expensive injectable drugs, eliminating waste can have a significant impact on prices. With regard to the safety angle, the needle and syringe determine the cases of blood-borne diseases from patient to doctor or from patient to patient.
Virtually all syringes used to inject patients have a defect. When extracting a medicine from a vial, the medicine first fills the spaces that cannot be reached when injecting it into the patient. This amount is discarded with each ineffective injection. Up to 40% of this vital treasure is thrown away.
Each pharmaceutical company fills their bottle for the correct number of doses, then adds an amount that compensates for the space wasted in inefficient syringes. Not knowing which syringe will be used, they must overfill the vial anticipating the use of the most inefficient design.
One answer to this problem is for the US government to invest in safe syringes made in America. A well-known company for producing something called the Ultra-Low Waste Smart Safety Syringes is the American company Sharps Technology. Sharps reports a 40% increase in doses obtained from a 5-dose vial with improved syringe technology, increasing the number of doses to 7 doses without an increase in the amount of vaccine manufactured. Waste can be removed with a more efficient syringe.
It’s not just a problem with the COVID-19 vaccine. With some specialty injectable drugs, the overfill is greater than 100% of the dose needed. The outbreak of a new pandemic is a matter of when, not if. We need to be ready for the next big health crisis and learn some lessons about the delicate balance Americans will tolerate between the health of the American people and the level of tolerance for government-imposed restrictions. An important part of our strategy must include moving the US medical supply chain out of China, where many of the ineffective and dangerous cheap syringes come from, and into the United States.
Our healthcare workers deserve the best medical tools to keep them safe, and frontline workers can be protected by using safe needles to eliminate accidental needlestick injuries. Sharps also has built-in guards in the Ultra-Low Waste Smart Safety Syringes that address safety.
High quality “Made in America” medical technology is good healthcare policy that will save lives, eliminate waste and protect healthcare workers.
- Jerry Rogers is the editor of RealClearHealth and host of The Jerry Rogers Show on WBAL NewsRadio.