The past couple of years we have witnessed an ever-increasing interest in wearable injectors or patch pumps. One of the drivers for this is the increasing number of biologics in pharma’s pipeline which are difficult to deliver by a simple syringe.

It is sometimes the case that when the driving force for a new device is not primarily to improve the patient experience, drug delivery device developers may miss a vital goal and come up with solutions that – although they meet pharma’s technical requirements – come short of addressing key patient needs. Unless user needs are fully understood, the adoption of wearable injectors is less likely to become widespread – putting at risk their ultimate commercial success.

So what are the patient expectations for a wearable device and what features are likely to make patients prefer a wearable device to a traditional auto-injector or a pre-filled syringe?

User steps: The wearable device really should not require significantly more user steps than a standard injector – ideally it should be as simple as the loading of a primary container into the device, the placement of the device on the injection site for automated injection and, finally, its disposal. A drug transfer step from the primary container to the device adds extra effort and complexity.

Comfort: The wearable device must be able to deliver large-volume drugs in one go and with the minimum of pain. The performance of the device should also not be impacted by the patient’s posture or movement, and the patient should feel their mobility is not compromised.

Safety: For all user steps the patient needs to feel in control and potential hazards should be minimised. For example, the loading of the drug into the device can require needles which would be one step that could be improved.

Confidence: The patient needs to be confident that the device runs as expected for the duration of the treatment. Feedback on injection progress and completion may be necessary to enhance confidence.

Discretion: Offering more mobility allows the patient to leave the comfort of their home – but that should not come at the cost of discretion. The wearable injector should not draw attention to the patient’s condition.

Of course, the importance of each area will depend on the disease state of each patient, their attitude towards their treatment, their need for a change, and the level of their dependency on carers and healthcare professionals – but the general principles remain common to all patients.

It will be interesting to see how wearable injectors are going to evolve over the next few years and what innovations emerge to best meet user needs.


For more than 50 years, we have been helping clients turn business opportunities into commercial successes, whether they are launching first-to-market products, entering new markets or expanding existing markets through new technologies. Our auto-injector, inhaler, injection device and wearable injector development programmes extend from concept creation through to industrialisation, with a 'quality by design' approach and full compliance with international regulatory standards.

Matthew Allen
Head of Global Medical Technology

After several years leading our drug delivery device market development, Matthew now oversees global business development for our medical technology business, including drug delivery, medical devices, diagnostics and digital health. His role involves strategic responsibility of business development as well as technical and commercial oversight of some of our most complex development projects, with a specific interest in inhalation and injection products.