Insulin is a protein and when administered orally, it degrades in the stomach and the intestines. When administered subcutaneously, it is better absorbed and has more of an effect on blood sugar levels. Many alternative technologies have entered the insulin delivery device market, such as insulin pumps and insulin pens, resulting in a fast decline in insulin syringe use across Europe.
Insulin syringes are moving from being hypodermic to those with finer points. Syringes are used with 10 mL insulin vials and come in 0.3 mL, 0.5 mL and 1 mL calibrations. In addition, thinner and shorter syringes are becoming more popular in the market, as they cause less discomfort when giving an injection. Needle thickness is indicated by gauge number; the higher the gauge number, the thinner the needle.
A lancet is a small needle with a plastic or rubber coating that fits into the top of a lancing device. Lancing devices are pen-like instruments which are used in conjunction with a lancet to draw blood to be applied to a glucose strip. Many lancets come as a component of blood glucose monitoring kits, and can be adjusted for injection depth. Reusable lancets are not as effective as they are more dull and painful and increase the risk of infection.
Insulin pens are shaped like a writing pen, but have a reservoir for insulin and are used as a delivery method for insulin. To administer insulin, patients must remove the pen cap, clean the injection site with an alcohol swab, attach a pen needle, prime the pen, dial the appropriate dosage amount and finally inject the insulin. There is a dose dial on the side of the pen so the patient can choose the required dose.
Insulin pens are either prefilled or reusable with a disposable cartridge component, and generally carry 300 units of insulin. Most brands of insulin are available in pen format. This delivery method offers several advantages over the traditional vial and syringe delivery method. Pens offer ease-of-handling, improved accuracy, more discreet use and less injection pain.
The traditional blood glucose monitoring market, also referred to as the self-monitoring of blood glucose (SMBG) market, includes devices used for testing the concentration of glucose in blood. Meters analyze a small drop of blood that is drawn using a lancet and lancing device. The blood is placed on a small disposable test strip that is inserted into the blood glucose meter, which reads the level of glucose in the blood. The blood glucose meter is battery-powered and fits in the palm of the hand. When the blood is placed on the strip, it flows in through capillary action. The electrochemical reaction between the test strip and the blood determines the blood glucose concentration reported as milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or millimoles per liter (mmol/L).