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  • Writer's pictureTim Morch

Goodbye Painful Needles - Hello Painless Microneedle Patch

Updated: Sep 27, 2023

Parents tend to mark the passage of time through their kids. From pregnancy to birth to first steps, childhood milestones are imprinted indelibly. But one moment we always remember is their first vaccine injection. Seeing that first needle is scary, no matter what trick the Doctor tries. When it pierces the skin, some kids cry out while others hold strong, silent tears rolling down their cheeks.


The knowledge that they are safer softens our guilt. Then, we quietly take the doctor’s card with the next scary injection date. The ice cream or a treat for bravery helps us as much as our kids.


We want to shield our kids from painful needles but recognize that, for now, there is no alternative. Injections can be painful and nerve-wracking. Anxiety mounts as the next jab nears, and parents can offer little consolation.


Some kids get used to injections, barely noticing the needle's sting sliding beneath the skin and the slight swelling that follows. Others develop a fear of needles – trypanophobia - that can last a lifetime. It’s estimated that most kids, up to 50% of adolescents, 30% of young adults and 16% of adults, have needle phobia.



Send In the Cavalry!

The good news is that a painless solution comes in microneedle – or microarray patches. These small patches have tiny clusters of hair-sized needles and are applied to the skin like a bandage.


Experts recognize them as “a highly effective transdermal vaccine delivery method due to its mechanism of action, painlessness, and ease of use.”



They will soon replace the hypodermic needle for many applications like routine injections and vaccines. Say goodbye to painful needles and hello painless microneedle patch.



What Are Microneedle Patches?

Microneedle patches have been around since the late 70s. The first two bulky patches reduced motion sickness symptoms and helped stop smoking. They work by piercing the external barrier layer of skin – the stratum corneum – and putting the drug directly into your body’s circulating system via the epidermis – the upper layer of your skin’s connective tissue.


Modern microneedle patches come in six main varieties: solid, coated, hollow, dissoluble, swellable and porous. Researchers around the globe are championing a drug delivery mechanism that redefines efficiency and effectiveness – painlessly.


Scientific American notes that “because these devices insert drugs directly into the epidermis or dermis, they deliver medicines much more efficiently than familiar transdermal patches, which rely on diffusion through the skin.”



Types of microneedles used in a microneedle patch.

Six Types of Microneedles

Source: Springer Link


Each type of microneedle has advantages and limitations. A drug's molecular weight – akin to size – often dictates the type used. Leading institutions in the EU and USA continuously introduce new mixes and methods to achieve optimal dosage. However, clinical trials and regulatory approval for medicines take time.


The cosmetics industry has witnessed a boom in skincare products using microneedle patches. It demonstrates proof of concept for manufacturers, aided by the fact that approvals for non-medical ingredients are faster. Demand is high, and this market segment is experiencing explosive growth.


New medical applications are being identified in universities and research centers worldwide. But getting from the lab to the pharmacy has been elusive. Several manufacturers are pushing to commercialize microneedles so you can find them on the shelves one day.



The Benefits of Microneedles

The microneedle patch has consequential implications for the safe, cost-effective delivery of various medicines. It will reduce the need for liquid vaccine flasks, syringes and needles and eliminate the complex cold chain logistics. Microneedle patches are easy to ship and use, reducing hazardous waste disposal and the need for qualified personnel to administer.


Consider this scenario: It’s time for a child to be vaccinated. Any parent, anywhere in the world, can walk to the pharmacy, get a microneedle patch and stick it on their kid’s arm. No pain, all gain.


While today’s kids might not be getting vaccinated with a microneedle patch, the next generation may very well. Until then, they will continue to get hypodermic jabs for vaccinations, flu shots, etc. Like most adults, our kids will continue to endure the pain and fear of hypodermic needles, dreaming of the day when painless patches can be applied at home to deliver medicines for their kids.

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