In this article, we delve into the rising trend of self-injected drugs, a key aspect of the burgeoning do-it-yourself medicine movement. We explore personal experiences with self-injection, the expanding range of conditions that can now be treated with self-injectable drugs, and the rapid growth of the self-injection devices market.
We also discuss the technological advancements making self-injection more accessible and comfortable, the vital role of patient education and support, and the promising future of self-injection as scientific breakthroughs continue.
A Personal Encounter with Self-Injection
Heather, a 65-year-old from Southern California, recalls her fear of needles from her high school biology class. Fast forward to her adult life, and she found herself facing that fear again when her doctor prescribed Ozempic (semaglutide), a once-weekly injectable medication to supplement her oral metformin for managing her blood sugar.
Despite her initial apprehension, Heather was able to overcome her fear and administer the injections herself after the first dose. Reflecting on her experience, Heather said that the actual process was not as traumatic as she had imagined.
A Growing Trend: Self-Injected Medicines
As Heather’s story illustrates, self-injected medications are becoming increasingly common. Experts predict that we will be seeing more of these in the future as part of the growing trend of do-it-yourself medicine.
In the past, self-injections were primarily limited to insulin for diabetes patients or anti-coagulants for those at high risk of blood clots. However, according to Eric J. Topol, MD, Editor-in-Chief of Medscape and Executive Vice President of Scripps Research, the landscape is rapidly changing.
Now, we have a range of self-injectable medications available for conditions such as autoimmune diseases, obesity, diabetes, and high cholesterol. Interestingly, this rise in self-injected medications comes just a couple of years after many people expressed “needle phobia” during the initial rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Market Growth and Expectations
The market for self-injected drugs is showing no signs of slowing down. Estimates suggest that the global self-injection devices market size was $6.6 billion in 2021 and is expected to grow nearly 6% annually from 2022 to 2030.
These devices come in various forms, including prefilled syringes or pens and auto-injectors. As of August 2021, nearly 80 auto-injectors have been developed by over 20 drug companies, with a reported failure rate of just 0.40%.
Common self-injected medications include Humira (adalimumab) for arthritis, Repatha (evolocumab) for cholesterol management, Dupixent (dupilumab) for asthma, and Ozempic (semaglutide) for diabetes control or Wegovy (semaglutide) for weight loss.
According to George I’ons, Head of Product Strategy for Owen Mumford Ltd., three main factors are driving this trend:
- Staff shortages at medical clinics and hospitals
- Financial pressures on healthcare systems
- A growing aging population likely to require regular medication
The Evolution of Devices and Needles
While the thought of self-injection may seem daunting, technological advancements aim to make the process more comfortable. For instance, many auto-injectors now hide the needle before and after use, reducing the anxiety associated with seeing the needle.
Furthermore, needle sizes have decreased significantly, making them less intimidating and more comfortable for patients. However, not all medications can be delivered with the smallest needles – some drugs, due to their viscosity, may require larger needles.
The Importance of Education and Support
Amy Hess-Fischl, a certified diabetes educator and registered dietitian at the University of Chicago, emphasizes the importance of patient education in self-injection. She believes that:
- Self-injecting can be empowering
- It can improve patient-centred care
- It can reduce anxiety
There are key resources and strategies available for learning about self-injection:
- Online Resources: There is a wealth of online resources available for patients to learn about self-injection. These include instructional videos, step-by-step guides, and forums where patients can share their experiences and tips.
- Human Touch: Despite the availability of online resources, Hess-Fischl stresses the irreplaceable value of the human touch. This could involve one-on-one training sessions with healthcare professionals or support groups where patients can learn and practice in a supportive environment.
- Instruction and Support Plans: When prescribing self-injected medication, healthcare providers should have an instruction and support plan in place. This could include initial training sessions, regular check-ins to address any concerns or problems, and ongoing support as needed.
Looking Ahead: The Future of Self-Injected Medications
While many medications can be self-injected, there are still several that require intravenous (IV) administration. One of the main barriers is the high viscosity of some medicines, which makes it challenging to prepare and administer small volumes needed for subcutaneous injections.
However, scientific advancements could soon make it possible for patients to self-inject these medications at home. Jeffrey Hackman, CEO and Chairman of Comera Life Sciences believes that some biologics currently administered via IV in clinics could be self-injected at home within the next 5 to 7 years.
In conclusion, the era of do-it-yourself medicine, specifically self-injection, is here and growing. With continuous advancements in technology and improved patient education, this trend shows no signs of slowing down.