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One of the biggest challenges facing manufacturers of safety syringes in Europe is the lack of legislation on the use of these products in health care settings.

Till date, none of the European countries has introduced clear rules governing the usage of safety devices or making their use mandatory. Some countries such as Germany have issued broad directives but these are meant to be guidelines and leave the final decision to the discretion of the purchasing agency.

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan reveals that the European safety syringes market generated a market revenue of USD 13 million in 2003 and is projected to double by 2010.

Given that needlestick injuries amount to a staggering one million in Europe every year, and that 16 to 25 per cent of these are linked to the usage of single-use syringes, the market for safety syringes - which prevent needlestick injuries as well as discourage reuse - looks extremely promising.

"A legislation that is sympathetic to the problems faced by the number of needlestick injuries occurring in Europe and the hazards of infection by over 20 pathogens that health workers face is needed," comments Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Kavitha Ravikumar. "This will not only be socially lauded but also act as an effective driver to the safety syringes market."

The Needlestick Prevention Act introduced in the United States represents the first true legislation towards mandating the use of safety engineered products in health care settings. This landmark legislation was introduced to address the growing concern of the health care industry for the safety of its employees. With the spread of blood-borne diseases such as AIDS and hepatitis, there is now, more than ever, an urgent need for safer devices that eliminate needlestick injuries.

Huge health care expenditure on drug-related infections - over USD 900 million in the case of Spain and about USD 700 million in the case of Italy - can also be potentially controlled if syringe reuse and needle sharing become difficult due to distribution of safety syringes in place of the ordinary ones.

The Needlestick Prevention Act has been instrumental in opening up a new market with considerable potential - the European market. While this market is still relatively very small, the increasing awareness of safety issues and the demands of health care workers for safer work environments are expected to help it grow significantly in the future.

Meanwhile, in the absence of specific government legislation, safety syringe manufacturers must consider supporting movements lobbying for such laws and simultaneously work at raising awareness of safety issues and the drawbacks of not using safety devices.

Currently, it is estimated that over 50 per cent of ordinary syringes have the potential to be replaced by safety products. This number is expected to rise to considerably in 2010 due to technological advances. Market penetration is also set to show substantial long-term increases from the presently low levels of 2.5 per cent.

However, the high prices of safety syringes are likely to be a major constraint to market growth. These devices are perceived to be far too expensive at a time when almost all end-user markets are focused on cost-cutting.

In spite of their proven advantages over ordinary syringes, adoption by healthcare agencies has not been very significant. Cost of new technology in a growing market combined with small-sized end-user markets is likely to continue to keep prices high.

"Participants can consider applying for subsidies and exemptions on the welfare and citizen protection platform to bring down manufacturing costs, and consequently product prices," says Ms. Ravikumar. "Passing on the benefits of economies of scale can also help lower prices and drive demand for safety syringes."

With syringes being a commodity market, there is a strong need to play up the innovation and technology benefits of these products. Companies must concentrate on the prestige and reputation associated with having safety products in their portfolios, particularly in premium and specialty health care areas.

Tags: manufacturers, needle, safety, sales, sticks, syringe, syringes

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