The DeHarde family knows the statistics on the number of health-care workers who suffer from needle sticks — as many as 800,000 annually.
Nearly 10 years ago, Lawrence DeHarde's wife, a dental technician, was one of them.
So the elementary school principal from New Orleans teamed up with his brother Michael DeHarde, a mechanical engineer, to create a safety syringe that would automatically cap used needles.
After eight years of design and research, the brothers and their DeHardCap Safety Syringe Inc. have teamed with medical injection molder Magnum Plastics Inc. in a $2 million joint venture to bring their safety syringe to the market.
Production on DeHardCap comes just as a federal order requiring health-care organizations to consider safety syringes is about to take effect — a move echoing the safety measures under way in 16 different states.
"Government has made it all a very viable project," Michael DeHarde, president of DeHardCap, said in an April 12 telephone interview. "Before this, the safety syringe market was floundering."
Former President Bill Clinton signed a safety syringe program into existence late last year. The mandate calls for hospitals to consider the use of syringes with some kind of system either to cover or to retract needles after use.
The DeHardCap system is a polypropylene cover with a spring-loaded cap that pops into place over the needle with the push of a button, much like the spring-loaded cap on a pen.
It can be retrofitted on any syringe, DeHarde noted.
"We tried to keep it simple," he said. "We didn't want to impact the user at all with trying to figure out how to use it."
But while the system is easy for medical workers to use and understand, it is a complex assembly, with six individual parts — four of them injection molded PP, according to Dave Miller, president of Erie, Colo.-based molder Magnum Plastics.
Magnum will produce the caps in its medical clean room, starting in June. It can make up to 50 million of the estimated 20-cent caps annually with its existing equipment, he said.
Magnum has room to expand if the companies receive a solid response, Miller said.
"We're getting a tremendous amount of inquiries from all over the world," he said. "We had one request from Egypt to supply 35 million on an annual basis.
"It's exciting for us."