Jet Injectors—Changes In The Marketplace, Becton Dickinson Buys A Stake In Medi-Ject

| Mar 1, 1996

The Medi-Ject Corporation, makers of a needle-free insulin injector, recently announced a new alliance with Becton Dickinson. The collaboration grants Becton Dickinson (B-D) the rights to market a new needle-free jet injector product for insulin and selected other drugs under its brand name. Medi-Ject will manufacture injectors and B-D will manufacture the disposable drug chamber.

B-D has acquired a minority equity interest in Medi-Ject. In addition, the company will support Medi-Ject's development of this particular injector.

What is a Jet Injector?

Jet injectors are devices that are used to deliver insulin or other drugs by introducing a stream of droplets through the skin. The current Medi-Jector, which has been in the market for eight months, resembles a small flashlight, with a spring mechanism that delivers insulin through a tiny nozzle. The insulin or other drugs disperse once they enter the skin, giving an absorption pattern much the same as a conventional needle and syringe. The drug chambers must be cleaned regularly since the device is reusable.

Medi-Ject's proposed improvements to the jet injector system will make the device smaller, lighter, and more convenient than those currently on the market. In addition, the chamber that holds the drug will be made of disposable plastic. Users would no longer need to clean the nozzle or sterilize the drug chamber.

New to the Diabetes Market

Jet injectors are not new to the drug-delivery market. They have been around since the 1940s for vaccination and other drug-delivery purposes.

Though the jet injection system has been successful in some uses, it constitutes only a small percentage of the insulin-delivery market. This may be attributed to several factors such as lack of proper knowledge about jet injection, competitiors who do not have a sales force to train educators and physicians on the product and its use, and the subsequent lack of promotion by diabetes educators and physicians.

Other reasons may include lack of awarness about recent improvements in the system or the inconvenience of having to sterilize the chamber. The cost of the product itself is a barrier, especially to those who have no insurance coverage.

However, improvements over the years have created a niche market for a jet-injector system used to deliver insulin. Today, the customer base is estimated to be 10,000 to 20,000, and is believed to consist primarily of young people, those who have needle phobias, and people who have physical disabilities.

Plans to Expand and Advance

The good news is that Medi-Ject's collaboration with B-D signals new advancements in the jet injector technology. It is also indicative of B-D's business strategy of diversifying and expanding its presence in the diabetes products market. B-D is also collaborating with Lilly Pharmaceuticals to develop and market a pre-filled insulin pen.

The competitors in the insulin jet-injector marketplace are Medi-Ject Corporation (the current market leader), Vitajet Corporation, and Health-Mor Personal Care Corporation (formerly Moore Industries). Bioject, a company in which Lilly Pharmaceuticals has a considerable equity interest, also produces a jet injector though it is not recommended for insulin delivery.

According to Gary Moore of Health-Mor, one can expect to see many product improvements and collaborations within the next two years. Vitajet Corporation is expected to release a new product sometime this year.

Medi-Ject CEO Franklin Pass MD, says, "By providing us with excellent distribution to pharmacies and hospitals, as well as high-quality, low-cost disposable drug chambers, the relationship with Becton Dickinson will enable us to offer many more people the choice of needle-free delivery."

The Goal is to Reach out to Everyone

B-D's marketing expertise and dominance in the diabetes-products market will increase its chances of keeping the same customers and help recruit newly diagnosed ones. It is also assumed that the market will expand due to patients who switch from needles to jet injectors.

As yet, the cost of a Medi-Ject and B-D system is not known. However, if the new product is expensive, or perceived to be so, then sales may be discouraged.

Nevertheless, B-D's entry into the insulin jet-injection market will definitely elevate this system to playing a bigger role in drug delivery.


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