An auto-injector is a device used to automatically inject the dosage of a specific drug. Most auto-injectors are spring loaded, easy to use and meant for patient self-administration or administration by untrained medical personnel. The injection is usually administered on either the buttocks or the things and auto-injectors were designed to overcome the worry linked to self-administration of needle-based drug delivery. Auto-injectors are typically used to treat Anaphylaxis, Multiple Sclerosis, and Rheumatoid Arthritis, along with other diseases. The U.S FDA has recently approved the pioneer electronic automatic injector to inject a drug dose to treat the most common form of multiple sclerosis. The auto-injector delivers Betaseron i.e. a disease-modifying drug that was first approved more than two decades ago by the FDA for relapsing forms of disabling and incurable diseases of the central nervous system.
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The device is called Betaconnect and is manufactured by Bayer AG. Of the roughly 400,000 people with multiple sclerosis in the U.S alone, approximately 320,000 are initially diagnosed with this disease where symptoms may partially or totally disappear after a flare-up which is then followed by a stable period that may last for months or even years. The original device that delivered Betaseron had several drawbacks. The device is activated mechanically and makes a noticeable sound during administration that disconcerts patients. The Betaconnect however, reminds patients to take their medication every alternate day and is silent while doing so. It can be customised in terms of the speed of administration and the depth of the injection and the needle can be automatically retracted as well.
With the current spring technology, patients need to pull out the needle themselves. Needless to say, it can be quite difficult to pull out the needle from some awkward positions, along with being painful as well. With an electronic auto-injector retracting the needle automatically, the process is much simpler. The complete silence of auto-injectors also reduces the stress experienced by some patients on account of mechanical springs. Betaconnect was created with feedback received from both patients and medical caregivers. It even has an audio and visual end-of-dose indication that informs patients when their injection is complete.
As with all other medications, Betaconnect is not entirely without side-effects. The most common ones include liver enzyme increase, low white blood cell count, headaches, muscle tension increase, rash, pains, insomnia, stomach cramps and weakness. Some of the more serious problems are worsened heart ailments such as congestive heart failure, severe skin or tissue damage at the injection site, flu-like symptoms and potential seizures.
Although a large chunk of the U.S multiple sclerosis market is dominated by oral drugs, there have been some reports that link oral treatments to brain infections and this has somewhat dampened the enthusiasm of oral treatment adoption. Doctors are now advising their patients to try out auto-injectors with an eye on efficacy and safety in the long run especially as many of their patients are quite young. An estimate given by experts says that 50% to 60% of patients are diagnosed with MS as early as their 20s and 30s.
The Betaconnect is already available in Europe, Australia and more than 20 countries around the world. It is seen as a move by Bayer AG to stay on top in the hyper-competitive auto-injector devices market as many new devices are introduced to treat both multiple sclerosis and other diseases.