In November 2002, Smart Business told you about Joe Adkins and his battle with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration over his Disintegrator Pro needle destruction devices.
OSHA wouldn't allow hospital workers to use them, but the Needlestick Prevention Act, enacted in November 2000, stated that hospitals and health care facilities could consider any system to use to prevent workers from needlesticks.
What's more, Adkins and his company, Safeguard Medical Devices, faced competition from $3.7 billion medical supply company Becton, Dickinson & Co., which makes the safety syringes used in most hospitals.
When we tried to contact OSHA for our original story, our calls were never returned. But it looks like it finally responded. In a letter to Safeguard dated Nov. 17, 2003, OSHA acknowledged that the use of devices such as the Disintegrator Pro would "comply with the requirements of the bloodborne pathogens regulations in appropriate settings."
According to OSHA's letter, "the employer is to determine the most effective means of preventing accidental needlesticks." However, once the employer finds a needlestick prevention program it likes -- whether it's safety syringes or the Disintegrator -- "they are not required to evaluate all available new controls every year, but to simply keep abreast of new technologies."
With the push of a button, the Disintegrator Pro creates a small electric charge that melts the tip of the steel needle, leaving a blunt, sealed and safe endpoint. During the process, the needle tip is heated to 3,000 degrees, ensuring the elimination of any pathogens.
The most common type of safety syringe in hospitals costs 20 cents more than a standard syringe. It costs an average 100-bed hospital an extra $12,500 a year for the safety needles, according to Adkins.
To put a needle destruction device at each bed would cost the same, but it would only be a one-time cost. The only additional cost is a battery replacement after three or four years.
With this ruling, Safeguard hopes hospitals and health care facilities will "evaluate" the Disintegrator and save consumers an estimated $1.5 billion a year on safety syringes and wasted medication.