Type 1 and some Type 2 diabetics require insulin injections on a daily basis. As the incidence of Type 2 diabetes increases sharply in the United States, the need for syringes also climbs. More and more of these used syringes find their way into coffee cans or juice jugs instead of approved “sharps” containers. Incidental pricks caused during waste handling cost millions of dollars for preventative vaccinations, ongoing testing, and lost time on the job. There are no standard disposal requirements across cities and states for used syringes, but that’s about to change.
“The state of California in September 2008 passed a law that all sharps now must be transported to a drop site inside of an approved container,” says Holly Hartshorn, director of business development and marketing at Ulti-Med, Inc., a St. Paul company that makes diabetes products. “Whatever California does is going to get traction across all 50 states.”
If that’s the case, Ulti-Med is ahead of the game. The company has started selling regular syringes and pen-needle syringes in a container that doubles as an approved sharps container. The product debuted in the United States last year and is now being distributed in Canada.
“If we’re going to input sharps into the system, we’re going to do it and make sure that they’re properly disposed of,” Hartshorn says.
The Ulti-Guard comes with 100 syringes. It dispenses the product at the bottom of the container and a used syringe is then placed into a tamper-proof port at the top of the container. The container can hold up to 120 used syringes or a combination of syringes and lancets—the needles used to prick a finger for blood-glucose testing.
“When we got the packaging approved, [the FDA] kept telling us it has to be red because it’s a sharps container,” Hartshorn says. “Our standpoint was, ‘No, it’s not used in a hospital, it’s used in home care, [so] it doesn’t need to be red.’ We fought pretty hard to make sure it was more attractive.” Ulti-Med believes that a more attractive container will likely mean that more people will use it.