Alka Kshirsagar

Pune, April 27 The Union Health Ministry has mandated April 30 as the date on which the public health system will switch over from conventional disposable syringes to auto disable (AD) ones, which become dysfunctional after a single use.

With the deadline only a few days away, and several State governments already beginning to act upon it, manufacturers catering to 3.5 billion syringes-a-year market in India are gearing up to meet what is projected as a 30 per cent rise in demand for the product.

Unsafe practices

At an average, four-five medical injections a person are administered in India every year. And according to Mr Marc Koska, Founder-Chief Executive Officer, SafePoint Trust, a disturbing 62 per cent of these are unsafe on account of the use of recycling of disposable syringes that are unclean. The UK-based NGO had spearheaded an intensive campaign for the use of AD syringes in India last November, and is largely responsible for the Health Ministry’s mandate. Though, according to an Indiaclen survey of 2005, around 500 crore medical injections are administered a year, the demand for syringes is far less. “I have seen a disposable syringe being re-used up to 30-40 times in public hospitals,” says Mr Koska. This translates into a huge cost in terms of infections transmitted, he adds.

Manufacturing end

Of the 30-odd manufacturers of syringes in the country, the largest, Hindusthan Syringes and Medical Devices (HMD), which claims around 60 per cent of the current market share is gearing up for growth. The General Manager, Mr Pradip Sarin, says, “We make around 60-65 lakh syringes a day, including 10-12 lakh AD syringes.” He expects the market, which stands today at one crore syringes a day, to grow to 1.25-1.3 crore units a day with the enforcement of the new regulation. The Haryana-based Lifelong Meditech Ltd, whose brand of Safeway syringes, enjoys 7-8 per cent market share, currently does not make AD syringes. However, the General Manager, Mr S.M. Askari, reveals that the company plans to set up a unit to make AD syringes by June and also begin manufacture of safety syringes for the US and European market later in the year.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated April 28, 2009)
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