Healthcare professionals probably wouldn't like to admit this, but it happens: A worker is in a hurry, uses a needle in a patient and then sets it aside or drops it in their pocket before sliding the safety cover on, if the device comes with such a feature.

According to MedPro (Lexington, Kentucky), a company designing devices aimed at preventing needle stick injuries, 1 million such injuries are reported annually and only one out of three needle sticks are ever reported. The company believes 83% of needle stick injuries – which occur when a used needle comes in contact with a healthcare worker after it has been in the patient – can be prevented.

In phlebotomy, several blood collection devices come equipped with safety features such as a clip or slide to cover the needle, but these devices require the user to activate the feature, MedPro notes.

Craig Turner, CEO/chairman, and Walter Weller, president/COO, told Medical Device Daily that MedPro's products are all fully passive, meaning that the safety mechanisms are automatically activated.

"They don't even have to think about it, as soon as their done with the process ... the harm to them has hopefully greatly reduced, if not been eliminated," Turner said.

The company went public in December 2007 and has been collecting and assembling various intellectual properties having to do with what this passive, or automatic, technology, Turner said.

MedPro is centered on the federal Needle Stick Safety and Prevention Act of 2000, Turner said. "Our focus is on passive technology," he said. "We have a number of products that we are coming out with, but they all revolve around a passive technology." The company is trying to align itself with current partners in the market place, he said.

The company is developing products for the phlebotomy, clinical, pharmaceutical and intravenous markets, Turner noted. MedPro is either developing or has acquired technology to place products in those four markets, he said. The portfolio includes a needless IV system that is already FDA approved.

"What we're trying to do is identify those strategic partners ahead of time, prior to actually launching those products into the marketplace," Turner said. "So far we're off to a wonderful start."

In designing its products, Weller said MedPro has tried to duplicate the nature of how a particular device is used by a healthcare worker so that the company did not introduce new steps or methodologies. "Our devices, as much as humanely possible, have duplicated the same ways that systems have always functioned," he said.

Turner said MedPro has one blood collection product with two models that it hopes to bring to the market near the end of this year. One is a skin-touch model and the other is a tube-touch model. With tube-touch, insertion of the first blood collection tube causes the safety shield to be automatically released, the company said. With the skin-touch system, the safety guard activates on skin contact, allowing a multiple sample blood draw and "passive protection" upon completion, MedPro said.

"You cannot draw blood without having our system already engaged one way or another," Weller said.

Needlestick injuries are a major concern in the industry, Weller said, because of the potential for the healthcare worker to contract a bloodborne pathogens such as hepatitis or HIV. Between the two, hepatitis C is actually a bigger issue, he said, because it can live on the end of a sharp in a dumpster for four weeks. According to the company, more than 20 different pathogens have been reportedly transmitted from needlesticks.

"We're trying to be very focused in where we want to be in the market," Turner said. "Our technology is what makes us unique."

One partner MedPro has reported working with is Greiner Bio-One International. The companies have signed agreements giving Greiner exclusive worldwide rights to sell MedPro's tube-touch and skin-touch blood collection systems, and its winged safety blood collection set.

The agreements give Greiner the right to manufacture, assemble, and distribute the covered products. Last year MedPro reported receiving initial payments totaling $2.7 million from Greiner.