With six different names for phobias of needles/blood tests or vaccinations, it’s no surprise that 3.5 % – 10% of the population suffer from one or more of these phobias, and that 20% of that percentage often avoid necessary medical treatment as a result of their fear.

However, with developments over the last few years it is becoming increasingly clear that injections (certainly for long term medication delivery) could become a thing of the past. Medicated patches (transdermal) that continuously deliver medicine, whether it’s for a nicotine fix or to treat back pain, have been around for a little while now, but more advances have been made in the use of patches recently.

Stick to it!

One of the harder to solve problems is creating a patch that can administer medication when it is needed, not all the time, otherwise medication is being delivered continuously, even when not required. Biomedical engineers in South Korea may have this problem all sewn up with nanoparticles, activated by heat that can detect a patient’s muscle activity and release medication when it is needed. The future aspirations of this project are to be able to connect wirelessly to the patch so that doctors can diagnose and dispense medication, but this could be up to five years away.

Medication administration without needles has other benefits too; a shockingly large number of patients forget to take their medication or don’t fill their prescriptions. On average only 50% of patients with a chronic illness take their medications regularly and as instructed; correctly taking one’s medication is known as patient compliance or adherence. But patches could be the advance needed to prevent the extra unnecessary yearly hospital admissions or the death caused by non adherence.

An eye for change

However, a more recent advancement in the administration of drugs and diagnosis comes in the form of the Alcon (Novartis) Google partnership that we reported on recently.

Their initial targets are to develop the capabilities of testing blood glucose levels in people with diabetes and to help people with Presbyopia (a condition that affects the ability to focus on objects nearby). However, the possibilities don’t end there. In tears there is a chemical called lacryglobin which is a biomarker for some cancers, so the lenses could be used to detect levels in patients in remission.

It is also hoped that some medicines could be delivered through a contact lens with work started back in 2009 by Eyenovations, a MIT 100k Entrepreneurship competition finalist. Their goal was to create a contact lens that could deliver treatment for 30 days or more for conditions like dry eye or glaucoma and to deliver longer term medication to people in more remote areas. However, it is not as easy as it might sound to develop something like this, and the company has been very quiet since 2010. However, technological advances have moved rapidly in the last four years, so some other company will probably pick up where they left off.

The lesser of two evils

So, while ‘needleless’ medication delivery is on the horizon, the question is, would you choose putting something in your eye over having an injection?