(19)
(11)EP 1 998 831 B1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT SPECIFICATION

(45)Mention of the grant of the patent:
28.10.2020 Bulletin 2020/44

(21)Application number: 07704923.7

(22)Date of filing:  17.01.2007
(51)Int. Cl.: 
A61M 5/20  (2006.01)
A61M 5/32  (2006.01)
A61M 5/31  (2006.01)
(86)International application number:
PCT/GB2007/000141
(87)International publication number:
WO 2007/083115 (26.07.2007 Gazette  2007/30)

(54)

IMPROVED AUTOINJECTOR SUPPORTING THE SYRINGE AT THE FRONT

VERBESSERTER AUTOINJEKTOR MIT LAGERUNG DER SPRITZE AM VORDEREN ENDE

AUTO-INJECTEUR AMÉLIORÉ SUPPORTANT LA SERINGUE À L'AVANT


(84)Designated Contracting States:
AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC NL PL PT RO SE SI SK TR
Designated Extension States:
AL BA HR MK RS

(30)Priority: 23.01.2006 GB 0601309
07.02.2006 GB 0602411
21.03.2006 GB 0605644
22.03.2006 US 387645
12.10.2006 GB 0620163

(43)Date of publication of application:
10.12.2008 Bulletin 2008/50

(60)Divisional application:
20195148.0

(73)Proprietor: The Medical House Limited
Norfolk, PE30 2JJ (GB)

(72)Inventor:
  • STAMP, Kevin
    Sheffield S35 1AR (GB)

(74)Representative: HGF 
1 City Walk
Leeds LS11 9DX
Leeds LS11 9DX (GB)


(56)References cited: : 
EP-A- 0 518 416
WO-A-2005/070481
WO-A-2006/106291
WO-A1-02/47746
GB-A- 2 388 033
US-A1- 2003 105 430
WO-A-99/22792
WO-A-2005/115507
WO-A-2006/106295
WO-A2-99/10030
GB-A- 2 410 188
US-A1- 2005 273 055
  
      
    Note: Within nine months from the publication of the mention of the grant of the European patent, any person may give notice to the European Patent Office of opposition to the European patent granted. Notice of opposition shall be filed in a written reasoned statement. It shall not be deemed to have been filed until the opposition fee has been paid. (Art. 99(1) European Patent Convention).


    Description


    [0001] This invention relates to the field of autoinjectors for the administration of liquid medication, for example, interferon.

    BACKGROUND



    [0002] An autoinjector is an automatic injection device designed to facilitate automated delivery of a dose of medicament to a patient through a hypodermic needle, the injection usually being administered by the patient themselves. An autoinjector works, for example, by delivering an injection automatically upon actuation by the patient pressing a button, moving a lever or part of a housing etc. This is in contrast to a conventional manual syringe where the patient himself needs to directly depress a plunger into a barrel containing medicament in order to effect the injection. The terms "autoinjector" and "injection device" are used interchangeably in the following description.

    [0003] Examples of autoinjectors are described in WO2003/099358 (Seedlings Life Science Ventures LLC) and WO01/93926 (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research). These are both generally flat devices which are of small size to encourage users to carry the device with them for ready access. GB2396298 (PA Consulting Services Ltd) is an example of a more conventionally-shaped elongate autoinjector, but of relatively complex internal construction.

    [0004] All three of the above prior art devices have a custom designed medicament chamber therein rather than being built around a standard pre-filled syringe presentation. The custom medicament chamber, although allowing for a compact overall size for the device, means that the device as whole must be subjected to more rigorous regulatory control as compared with a device containing a standard pre-filled syringe presentation which will have already obtained regulatory approval.

    [0005] Another reason why the above prior art cannot be used in conjunction with a standard syringe presentation is related to the needle. Usually, a standard pre-filled syringe presentation, to be used within a disposable autoinjector includes a needle in communication with a medicament chamber contained within the barrel of the syringe. It is essential that the sterility and integrity of the needle is maintained and protected right up until the moment it is required to deliver an injection. Usually this is achieved by providing a needle sheath comprising a solid (for example an elastomer such as rubber) sheath into which the needle is staked or spiked so that it is surrounded and sealed on all sides. Usually, at least the forwardmost 3-4mm of the needle is embedded in the rubber of the needle sheath. The autoinjector cannot be operated with the needle sheath in place. Immediately prior to actuating the device, the user removes the needle sheath, for example by removing an endcap from the device to which the needle sheath is attached, so that the needle is ready for use. In contrast, WO01/93926 for example has an entirely different type of needle sheath 79 which is designed to be ruptured by the forward-moving needle during use of the autoinjector. In other words, this type of rupturable needle sheath does not need to be removed from the device before actuation, however, such needle sheaths are likely to provide less mechanical protection than those provided in a standard pre-filled syringe presentation and usually do not directly maintain sterility of the medicament and the needle.

    [0006] In general, an autoinjector includes a needle which is located within the housing of the device. Upon activation of a force-generating source, a portion of the needle extends out of the housing and penetrates the outer layer of skin to deliver medicament. In some known autoinjectors, after activation, a needle cover or needle shield moves forward to conceal the the needle after use. In GB2396298, the needle automatically retracts back into the housing by means of a biasing spring.

    [0007] An improved autoinjector is described in our co-pending international patent application, published under number WO 2005/070481. Some of the reference numerals in the present application correspond with the equivalent components in the device described in WO 2005/070481. This device requires that the needle is moved axially so that it can appear beyond the end of the nozzle for the duration of the injection, after which the needle retracts automatically, so that it is never in sight of the user. The device also requires that the plunger is moved axially so that medicament is ejected. The overall complexity of the autoinjector is significantly reduced by both of these requirements being effected by one component, namely an inner housing and the device has the significant advantage that it can be built around a conventional or standard syringe presentation.

    [0008] The injection device of WO 2005/070481 is designed to be used in conjunction with a standard drug presentation e.g. a pre-filled syringe comprising a needle, barrel pre-filled with medicament and a plunger. The plunger may include a separately-provided plunger rod. As mentioned above, there is a significant commercial advantage in being able to use a standard pre-filled syringe, which will have been subjected to numerous clinical trials, drug stability studies and regulatory approval. Any modification to the standard syringe may require further trials and approval, adding delay and expense. The present invention is relevant to any injection device for use in conjunction with a standard pre-filled syringe presentation (whether preloaded or not and whether single-use or reusable), not only the device described in WO 2005/070481.

    [0009] The barrel of a syringe is usually glass, since glass has the most favourable storage properties for many drugs. However, glass is notoriously fragile and there is a risk of damage or breakage of the syringe during injection if the forces to which the syringe is subjected by the injection device are not properly controlled. This is particularly so where the liquid medicament is relatively viscous, requiring greater force to expel it from the syringe via the needle. Barrels made of materials other than glass, for example polyethylene or cyclic olefin polymers are less brittle when subjected to normal forces during injection, but still would benefit from the invention described below.

    [0010] In the known device described in our co-pending patent application no WO 2005/070481 and illustrated in Figures 1-3 of the present application, the syringe is supported within the injection device by a barrel or syringe holder 9. The syringe holder 9 comprises an elongate housing which closely surrounds the glass barrel of the syringe. The annular flange 90 at the rear of the syringe barrel rests on a barrel seat 91 at the rear of the syringe holder 9. The annular flange 90 at the rear of the syringe barrel is often referred to as a "finger flange" because, during a conventional (manual) injection using a syringe, the user's index and middle fingers rest naturally in front of the "finger flange" in order to provide the necessary resistance to allow depression of the plunger by the thumb to deliver the medicament.

    [0011] The barrel seat, for example in the form of an annular flange, preferably prevents forward axial movement of the syringe with respect to the syringe holder so that, in use, the syringe barrel and the syringe holder move axially together as one unit.

    [0012] In use, as described in WO 2005/070481, there are three stages of delivering an injection. Before delivering an injection (referring to Figure 1 of the present application), the end cap 15 is pulled off, removing the needle cover 17 (if present) and rubber needle sheath 16 with it from the needle. In the first stage of delivering an injection, as shown in Figure 2 of the present application, the tags 7B at the forward end of the inner housing 7 are in contact with the syringe barrel 90, which is pushed axially forward (taking the syringe holder 9 with it), so that the needle 10, which is fixed to the front end of the barrel, moves in the direction indicated by the arrow so that eventually it protrudes beyond the nozzle 11 at the front of the device. Forward travel of the barrel and syringe holder is limited when a surface 9A of the syringe holder reaches an endstop 11A inside the nozzle or front housing 11.

    [0013] Referring now to Figure 3, the second stage of the injection is the delivery of the medicament wherein the tags 7A at the rear of the inner housing 7 depress the plunger 8 into the barrel of the syringe. During this stage, the barrel of the syringe is held axially stationary, by abutment of the annular "finger" flange 90 against the barrel seat 91, which results in the barrel being placed in tension as the plunger pushes the non-compressible liquid medicament towards the forward end of the barrel. This tension is undesirable in a glass barrel, which may become damaged or broken, especially if the medicament comprises a particularly viscous liquid which requires greater force to expel it from the syringe via the needle. Viscous medicaments are desirable in certain applications, where the use of a sustained-release viscous medicament reduces the frequency that an injection is required.

    [0014] It is desirable to minimise the diameter of the needle so far as is possible, because the smaller the diameter of the needle, the less painful is the resulting injection. However, for a given length of needle, the smaller the needle diameter, the greater the force required to eject the medicament from the syringe.

    [0015] It is also desirable to minimise the duration of the injection, i.e. to maximise the speed at which the medicament is delivered from the syringe. Particularly when the needle diameter is small, minimising the duration of the injection also means an increase in the force used to eject the medicament from the syringe.

    [0016] An increase in the forces on the syringe consequently increases the likelihood of the syringe breaking during the injection. The risk of the syringe breaking during injection is significant, and is not only inconvenient and costly but is also potentially dangerous. If breakage occurs, it is possible that glass fragments and/or the needle may become detached and exit the front of the device causing injury. Furthermore, there is the risk that the remaining medicament will leak or be ejected from the device in an uncontrolled manner, potentially delivering the wrong dose into the patient, or causing injury e.g. if the medicament contacts the patient's skin or eyes. These problems are amplified when the medicament is viscous as a more powerful energy source is needed in such applications so that the forces involved are greater. It is known that a typical breakage of the syringe during injection would occur at the finger flange, whereby the finger flange 90 on the syringe barrel breaks as a result of its abutment against the barrel seat 91. It is therefore highly desirable to minimise the likelihood of breakage of the syringe. In the third stage of the injection (not illustrated in the present application but shown in WO 2005/070481), once the medicament has been delivered and the inner housing 7 is no longer in contact with the barrel or plunger of the syringe, the secondary spring 12 pushes the syringe holder (and hence the syringe contained therein) axially rearwardly so as to retract the syringe back into the housing so that the used needle is concealed from view.

    [0017] Document WO2005115507 discloses an autoinjector with a syringe support means providing a reaction surface to the front end of the barrel.

    SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION



    [0018] The present invention is defined in the appended claims.
    According to a first aspect, there is provided an autoinjector comprising a housing in which can be mounted a syringe comprising

    a barrel for holding a volume of medicament,

    a needle at one end of the barrel in fluid communication with the medicament,

    a plunger axially-moveable in the barrel to a forwardmost position;

    a needle sheath which is capable of sealing the forwardmost end of the needle to maintain sterility of the medicament within the barrel whereby, in use, the needle sheath must be removed from the needle immediately prior to actuating the autoinjector; and

    a removable needle cover for containing the needle sheath;
    the autoinjector comprising:
    a syringe support means for supporting the barrel of the syringe at an axial location at or forward of the forwardmost position of the plunger of the syringe, the syringe support means providing a reaction surface for a front shoulder of the barrel or a narrowed cone region of the syringe where the needle is attached, characterised in that said syringe support means comprises an intermediate portion and a front portion which together include radially spaced slots that define plurality of radially flexible fingers, the plurality of radially flexible fingers comprising one or more inwardly-directed protrusions which form said reaction surface, wherein the reaction surface is configured to provide an axial compressive force on the barrel of a mounted syringe when a forward axial force is applied to the plunger of the mounted syringe, and wherein when the syringe is inserted into the syringe support means, the radially flexible fingers flex radially outward from a normal position as a needle cover passes and then spring back to their normal position.



    [0019] Preferably, the autoinjector is a single-use autoinjector. The simple construction of the autoinjector makes it very appropriate for applications such as emergency use for injecting a large population to control a pandemic, where a large number of cost-effective disposable autoinjectors are required. A single-use autoinjector also provides a very convenient means for patients to administer their own injections, even if lacking in dexterity and/or clinical experience. Delivery of viscous drugs is particularly problematic for patients lacking dexterity because of the greater force needed to deliver such drugs - this problem being alleviated by the present invention.

    [0020] Typically, the autoinjector contains an energy source, for example a coiled spring, for moving said plunger axially in the barrel to deliver an injection in less than 30 seconds.

    [0021] Preferably, the syringe is axially moveable in said housing and is biased so that the needle is normally wholly inside said housing, wherein before injection the syringe is movable axially so as to move at least a part of said needle out of the housing and wherein after injection, the syringe is able to retract in order to retract said part of said needle into the housing. The concealment of the needle both before and after injection makes the autoinjector particularly suitable where the patient has any aversion to injection by needle. Retraction and retention of the needle after injection eliminates the risk of needle-stick injury.

    [0022] According to another aspect there is provided a method of assembling an autoinjector comprising the steps of:

    providing a first part-assembly comprising a front housing and a closely fitting end cap;

    providing a second part-assembly comprising a rear part of the autoinjector;

    providing a syringe comprising a barrel for holding a volume of medicament, a needle at one end of the barrel and a plunger axially-moveable in the barrel to a forwardmost position;

    providing a syringe support means;

    inserting the syringe axially into the rear end of the syringe support means until said syringe support means supports the syringe;

    inserting the front end of said syringe and syringe support means into said first part-assembly;

    assembling said first part-assembly and second part-assembly together so that said syringe support means supports the syringe at an axial location at or forward of the forwardmost position of the plunger, whereby in use said reaction surface provides an axial compressive force on said barrel when a forward axial force is applied to the plunger.



    [0023] According to another aspect there is provided a method of assembling an autoinjector comprising the steps of:

    providing a first part-assembly comprising a syringe support means, the syringe support means providing a reaction surface for a front shoulder of a barrel or a narrowed cone region of a syringe where a needle is attached, a front housing and a closely fitting end cap; wherein said syringe support means comprises an intermediate portion and a front portion which together include radially spaced slots that define a plurality of radially flexible fingers, the plurality of radially flexible fingers comprising one or more inwardly-directed protrusions which form said reaction surface; and

    providing a second part-assembly comprising a rear part of the autoinjector;

    providing a syringe comprising a barrel for holding a volume of medicament, a needle at one end of the barrel; a plunger axially-moveable in the barrel to a forwardmost position; and a removable needle cover for containing a needle sheath which is capable of sealing a forwardmost end of the needle to maintain sterility of the medicament within the barrel, whereby in use, the needle sheath must be removed from the needle immediately prior to actuating the autoinjector;

    inserting the syringe axially into the rear end of the first part-assembly until said syringe support means supports the syringe; and

    assembling said first part-assembly and second part-assembly together so that said syringe support means supports the syringe at an axial location at or forward of the forwardmost position of the plunger, whereby in use said reaction surface provides an axial compressive force on said barrel when a forward axial force is applied to the plunger; and wherein when the syringe is inserted into the syringe support means, the radially flexible fingers flex radially outward from a normal position as the needle cover passes and then spring back to their normal position.



    [0024] Further features of the invention are defined in the appended claims.

    BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS



    [0025] Preferred embodiments of the present invention will now be more particularly described, by way of example only, with reference to the accompanying drawings in which:

    Figure 1 (PRIOR ART) is a perspective view of a known injection device;

    Figure 2 (PRIOR ART) is a plan view, partly in section of the Figure 1 device, with the cap and needle cover removed, ready for actuation;

    Figure 3 (PRIOR ART) is a plan view, partly in section of the Figure 1 device, with the needle exposed, ready for the plunger to be depressed in order to deliver the medicament;

    Figure 4 is a perspective view of an injection device embodying one aspect of the present invention;

    Figure 5 is a plan view, partly in section of the Figure 4 device, with the cap, needle cover and needle sheath removed, ready for actuation;

    Figure 6 is a plan view, partly in section of the Figure 4 device, with the needle exposed, ready for the plunger to be depressed in order to deliver the medicament;

    Figure 7 is a perspective view of the syringe holder;

    Figure 8 is a cross-sectional view of the syringe holder of Figure 7;

    Figure 9 is a cross-section view of the syringe holder of Figure 7, showing a syringe in place;

    Figure 10 is a cross-section view of the syringe holder of Figure 7, showing a syringe, needle sheath and needle cover in place;

    Figure 11 shows detail, drawn to a larger scale, of the interface between the front of the glass syringe barrel and the syringe holder illustrated in Figure 10;

    Figure 12, drawn to a larger scale, is a cross-sectional view of the modified front housing;

    Figure 13, drawn to a larger scale, is a perspective cross-sectional view of the front housing;

    Figure 14 is a cross-sectional view of the front housing, cap and syringe holder assembled together;

    Figure 15 is a perspective view of the front housing, cap and syringe holder assembled together;

    Figure 16 is a cross-sectional view of the front housing, cap, syringe holder and syringe assembled together;

    Figure 17 is a cross-sectional view of an alternative embodiment of the syringe holder;

    Figure 18 is a part-assembly view showing the syringe holder of Figure 17 together with its spring retainer, a syringe therein and the end cap and front housing;

    Figure 19 shows the part-assembly of Figure 18 with the needle cover removed;

    Figure 20 is a perspective view of the syringe holder of Figure 17 together with its spring retainer;

    Figure 21 is a perspective view of a syringe holder, end cap and front housing, showing an alternative means of retaining the gripping means against the syringe barrel;

    Figure 22 is a perspective view of another embodiment of the syringe holder together with a needle cover.


    DETAILED DESCRIPTION



    [0026] Throughout the description and claims of this specification, the words "comprise" and "contain" and variations of the words, for example "comprising" and "comprises", means "including but not limited to", and is not intended to (and does not) exclude other components, integers or steps.

    [0027] Throughout the description and claims of this specification, the singular encompasses the plural unless the context otherwise requires. In particular, where the indefinite article is used, the specification is to be understood as contemplating plurality as well as singularity, unless the context requires otherwise.

    [0028] Throughout the following description, reference to a "forward" direction means the direction which is towards the patient when the injection device is in use. The "forward" end of the injection device is the end nearest the patient's skin when the device is in use. Similarly, reference to a "rearward" direction means the direction which is away from the patient and the "rearward" end of the device is the end furthest from the patient's skin when the injection device is in use.

    [0029] The "plunger" includes any elastomeric stopper or the like which seals the chamber containing liquid medicament. The plunger typically also includes a plunger rod but this may be provided separately from the elastomeric stopper and need not be an essential part of the syringe. The "forwardmost position" of the plunger refers to the forwardmost position of any part of the plunger (typically the forwardmost edge of the stopper).

    [0030] Features, integers, characteristics or groups described in conjunction with a particular aspect, embodiment or example of the invention are to be understood to be applicable to any other aspect, embodiment or example described herein unless incompatible therewith.

    [0031] As described above, a disadvantage of the known prior art is that the barrel of the syringe is placed in tension as the plunger pushes the non-compressible liquid medicament towards the forward end of the barrel for delivery. This tension is undesirable in a glass barrel, which may become damaged or broken, especially if the medicament comprises a particularly viscous liquid which requires greater force to expel it from the syringe. There is a possibility that the glass syringe might break in the region of its finger flanges, as a result of the forces to which it is subjected during delivery of an injection. One way to mitigate this problem is to reduce the effect of those forces in the region of the finger flanges. For example, the syringe holder of WO 2005/070481 can be modified by providing a helical slit at the rear end thereof which, in use, provides resilience to the region of the barrel seat on which is located the finger flange of the syringe (not illustrated). The resilient flexing absorbs shock and reduces the risk of breakage of the syringe in the region of the finger flanges.

    [0032] Other means for reducing the effect of forces in the region of the finger flanges can be envisaged, for example, providing a cushion in the form of an O-ring or moulding a relatively soft or elastomeric material into a harder substrate in the region of the barrel seat.

    [0033] It is known that a typical breakage of the syringe during injection would occur at the finger flange, whereby the finger flange 90 on the syringe barrel breaks as a result of its abutment against the barrel seat 91. However, the applicant has recognised that it is also possible that the syringe could break at points on the barrel forward of the finger flange. This is potentially more serious as larger straight glass fragments may be ejected from the front of the device, as well as the unsecured needle, and any remaining medicament will leak out in an uncontrolled manner.

    [0034] The risk of breakage or damage to the glass syringe may be reduced by ensuring that the barrel is held in compression during delivery of the medicament (stage two of the injection process described in WO 2005/070481), rather than being in tension. This can be achieved by supporting the forward end of the barrel and having a reaction surface at which an axial compressive force can be applied to the barrel when a forward axial force is applied to the plunger during delivery of the medicament.

    [0035] In the injection device of the present invention, the conventional syringe holder 9 is replaced with a more complex syringe holder which is capable of supporting the syringe at the front end of its barrel instead of at its rear flange 90 during delivery of the medicament. In the embodiment described below, the syringe holder supports the syringe at the front shoulder of its barrel and provides a reaction surface there for the front shoulder of the barrel. By "front shoulder" is meant the region at which the largest diameter of the barrel reduces to a smaller diameter at the nozzle. The front shoulder 92 is indicated in Figure 9. Alternatively, the syringe could be supported and the reaction surface provided at the narrowed "cone" where the needle is attached thereto and these embodiments are described in more detail below. The syringe can, in fact, be supported at any place on the barrel which, in use, is forward of the forwardmost position of the fully-depressed syringe plunger and where a reaction surface for the syringe can be provided (so that the barrel is held in compression throughout the delivery of the medicament).

    [0036] However, the desired supporting or holding of the barrel by the syringe holder at its front end presents an assembly difficulty for a product where it is desired to keep manufacturing and assembly costs to a minimum. In the prior art device, the syringe can simply be dropped into the rear end of the syringe holder until its flange 90 rests on the barrel seat 91. This determines the axial position of the syringe with respect to the syringe holder. In practice, the prior art syringe holder is supplied ready-assembled with the front part of the device, so that the pre-filled syringe can simply be dropped into the syringe holder and then the front part of the device (including the syringe) can be attached to the ready-assembled rear part of the device in a simple two-stage assembly operation.

    [0037] In the present invention, it is not possible to use the finger flange 90 and barrel seat to determine the axial position of the syringe with respect to the syringe holder. This is because the syringe holder needs to actively support the syringe at its front end (preferably at the front shoulder 92 of the glass barrel). In the preferred embodiment there are inwardly-directed gripping means to retain the front shoulder of the glass barrel at a specific axial location with respect to the syringe holder. The standard syringe is usually supplied with a needle cover 17 which typically has a diameter almost the same as the largest diameter of the glass barrel (see Figure 10). The needle cover 17 may be rigid, but is not necessarily so. Inside the needle cover 17, the needle is staked or spiked inside a needle sheath 16, which may be made from rubber. If the syringe is inserted into the syringe holder needle-first (or rather needle-cover first), any inwardly-directed gripping means would foul on the needle cover (or needle sheath if no needle cover is present) as they attempt to pass. There is also the risk of the needle being damaged during assembly, for example if it is pushed into any inwardly-directed gripping means. Such damage to the needle is highly undesirable, as it could cause injury to the patient or could affect or impede delivery of medicament, in particular because it often cannot be readily detected if the needle is concealed within a needle cover and/or a rubber needle sheath. The damage to the needle may only become apparent during delivery of the medicament. The consequent effect of a damaged needle on delivery of medicament may not be apparent to the patient at all.

    [0038] This problem is solved by the use of a syringe holder 100 as illustrated in Figures 7 and 8. The syringe holder 100 comprises an elongate rear portion 102 in which there are viewing windows 103 so that the medicament chamber in the barrel of a syringe held therein would be visible. There is a barrel seat 101 (equivalent to barrel seat 91 in the prior art device) at the rear end of the rear portion 102, but in practice this is not intended to abut the flange 90 of the syringe barrel (unlike in the prior art device).

    [0039] The syringe holder also has an intermediate portion 105 of comparable diameter to the rear portion, and a front portion 106 of narrower diameter. The intermediate portion 105 is provided with a discontinuous annular flange 104. Together, the intermediate and front portions 105, 106 include radially-spaced slots 107 which define a plurality of radially flexible fingers 108. In the illustrated embodiment, there are three flexible fingers 108, but four or some other number of fingers may be provided. Figure 22 shows an embodiment in which four flexible fingers 108 are provided on the syringe holder 100. The four fingers necessarily each are thinner than those in the three-finger embodiment.

    [0040] A typical example of a needle cover 17 is shown in Figure 22 (illustrated without the rest of the syringe for simplicity). The needle cover has a slot 17A therein. If the syringe holder 100 is appropriately aligned with the needle cover of a syringe held therein, there is a possibility that one of the relatively thin flexible fingers 108 may undesirably snag or drop into slot 17A, possibly causing damage to the underlying needle that would not become apparent until an injection is delivered. This disadvantage can be overcome by ensuring that each of the flexible fingers 108 is preferably wider than the needle cover slot 17A, as illustrated by the three-finger embodiment of Figure 7.

    [0041] As shown in Figure 8, gripping means 109 preferably in the form of a discontinuous annular inwardly-directed protrusion, are provided on the interior of the flexible fingers 108 in the intermediate section 105. Referring to Figure 9, when a syringe is located within the syringe holder 100, the gripping means 109 abuts the front shoulder 92 of the barrel in order to define the axial position of the barrel with respect to the syringe holder.

    [0042] The term "gripping means" is not limited to means which grip radially-inwardly onto the barrel, although in some embodiments they may do so. More important is the fact that the gripping means 109 (or equivalent) supports the syringe in a desired axial location and provides a reaction surface for the syringe so that the barrel will be held in compression during delivery of the medicament.

    [0043] As can be seen from Figures 10 and 11, the needle cover 17 has a greater diameter than the diameter normally available at the gripping means 109. In other words, the internal diameter between the gripping means 109 is smaller than the exterior diameter of the needle cover 17. However, as will be explained in more detail below, when the syringe is inserted into the syringe holder, as the needle cover 17 passes the gripping means 109, the flexible fingers 108 flex radially-outwardly to create sufficient diameter for the needle cover to pass the inwardly-protruding gripping means, without exerting excessive force on the needle therein, thus minimising the risk of damage to the needle. Once the needle cover has passed, the flexible fingers 108 spring back into their normal position (having smaller internal diameter than the exterior diameter of the needle cover) and the gripping means 109 locate at the front shoulder 92 of the barrel to provide the reaction surface against which the syringe will be held in compression during delivery of the medicament. In this position, the gripping means 109 are axially located between the needle cover and the front shoulder of the barrel.

    [0044] The front portion 106 of the syringe support 100 is provided with a plurality of (preferably two) equispaced tags 110, whose purpose will be described later below.

    [0045] The most straightforward way to assemble the syringe and injection device is in a three stage procedure, namely:
    1. 1. inserting the syringe into the syringe holder, until the gripping means 109 locate at the front shoulder 92 of the barrel;
    2. 2. inserting the syringe and syringe holder into the front part of the injection device;
    3. 3. assembling the front part to the rear part of the injection device.


    [0046] Compared with the two-stage assembly procedure of the prior art device, the extra assembly stage is disadvantageous but initially seems necessary as it is not obvious how stages 1 and 2 could be readily combined so that the syringe holder can be supplied ready-assembled with the front part of the device. This is because, once assembled into the front part of the device, the flexible fingers 108 would be prevented from flexing radially outwardly by their necessarily close abutment with the front housing, thus preventing insertion of the syringe and needle cover.

    [0047] Therefore, in a further embodiment of the invention, a modified front housing for the injection device is provided which enables a two-stage assembly procedure to be used.

    [0048] The modified front housing 200 (analogous to nozzle 11 in the prior art) is illustrated in Figure 12. The front housing 200 has a bore 201, of sufficient diameter to allow passage therethrough of the needle 10, needle cover 17 and the front and intermediate portions 105, 106 of the syringe holder (but not the flange 104).

    [0049] The interior surface of the bore 201 is provided with two (or more) equispaced longitudinal slots 202, each having a rear section 203 with a tapered surface providing a varying depth and a forward section 204 of substantially constant depth. The boundary between the forward and rear sections of each slot 202 is defined by a step 205.

    [0050] The slots 202 are positioned so that they can be aligned with the tags 110 at the front portion of the syringe holder.

    [0051] The slots 202 enable the syringe holder 100 to be assembled into the front housing 200 at a specific axial position (relative to the front housing) so that the flexible fingers 108 stand clear of the front housing instead of being surrounded therein.

    [0052] The slots 202 also provide radial location for the syringe holder 100 as it is inserted therein.

    [0053] Figure 14 shows a modified end cap 300 (analogous to end cap 15 in the prior art) designed for use with the modified front housing 200 and how the syringe holder 100 is inserted into the front housing 200. The front housing 200 is inserted into the end cap 300 so that its leading surface 206 abuts the interior of the end cap, so that no further forward movement of the front housing within the end cap is possible.

    [0054] The close abutment of the end cap 300, front housing 200 and syringe holder 100 means that, if present, the needle cover 17 is retained securely in position such that the risk of the needle cover accidentally becoming loose or detached is minimised, thereby minimizing possible loss of integrity of the seal between the rubber needle sheath and the needle, which would otherwise compromise the sterility of the medicament contained within the syringe. The carefully engineered interaction between the components avoids the risk that during assembly, the syringe holder 100 might undesirably "snap" in between front end of the syringe barrel and the rear of the needle cover in such a way as to compromise the seal between the end of the needle and the needle sheath in which it is staked.

    [0055] The end cap has an upstanding annulus 301 which protrudes into and is a close fit in the bore 201 of the front housing 200. The upstanding annulus 301 has two equispaced protrusions on the exterior surface thereof which locate in longitudinal slots 202 when the end cap and front housing are assembled together. Once assembled together, the upstanding annulus of the end cap and the step 205 together define a space 302 into which tags 110 on the syringe holder 100 can locate.

    [0056] In order to insert the syringe holder 100 into the front housing 200, the tags 110 are aligned with and pushed into the slots 202 until the tags 110 "click" over the step 205 and locate in the space 302. This is the position illustrated in Figures 14 and 15. Now the syringe holder 100 is suitably axially located such that the gripping means 109 and flexible fingers 108 are not constrained within the front housing 200 and end cap 300. The front housing, end cap and syringe holder are supplied in this ready-assembled condition, together with the ready-assembled rear part of the injection device, for final assembly with a pre-filled syringe.

    [0057] It is therefore a straightforward two-stage procedure to finally assemble the syringe into the device, namely:
    1. 1. inserting the syringe into the ready-assembled front housing, end cap and syringe holder until the gripping means 109 locate at the front shoulder 92 of the barrel (as shown in Figure 16);
    2. 2. assembling the front part to the ready-assembled rear part of the injection device (not illustrated).


    [0058] Figures 4-6 show the fully assembled injection device including syringe holder 100. With reference to Figure 5, it can be seen that (unlike in the prior art device) the flange 90 of the barrel does not contact the barrel seat 101 of the syringe holder 100, there being a gap G therebetween. This is a result of the relative axial positions of the syringe holder and syringe being determined at the front end, by gripping means 109 and front shoulder 92 and means that undesirable tension is not applied to the glass barrel during delivery of the medicament.

    [0059] An alternative embodiment of the syringe holder is illustrated in Figures 17-20. Where possible, the same reference numerals as were used in relation to Figures 8-9 are used to identify like components of the alternative embodiment. Note that Figures 17-20 show the front end of the device at the left side of the Figures, whereas Figures 8-9 show the front end of the device at the right side of the Figures.

    [0060] In the Figure 17 embodiment of the syringe holder 100', the radially-flexible fingers 108' have their free ends extending in the forward direction (compare with the radially-flexible fingers 108 in Figure 8 which have their free ends extending in the rearward direction). The gripping means comprise inwardly-directed enlarged heads 109' at the end of the flexible fingers 108. As is best seen in Figure 19, the enlarged heads 109' are capable of gripping the cone 93 at the front of the syringe barrel. The cone 93 is the region where the needle 10 is attached to the syringe barrel.

    [0061] As shown in Figure 18, when a syringe is assembled with the syringe holder 100', the needle cover 17 (which is of comparable diameter to the syringe barrel) causes the flexible fingers 108' to flex radially-outwardly so that the enlarged heads 109' rest on the exterior of the needle cover 17.

    [0062] When the end cap 300 and needle cover 17 are removed axially in the direction of the arrow in Figure 18, the enlarged heads 109' should move radially-inwardly into contact with the cone 93 of the syringe so as to grip the front end of the barrel to provide the compressive force during injection. However, if the flexible fingers 108' are made from plastic and if the device is stored in the Figure 18 configuration for many months before use (both of which are likely), it is possible that the fingers 108' will no longer automatically flex properly inwardly upon removal of the needle cover 17.

    [0063] Therefore, a spring retainer 111 is provided. The spring retainer 111 is made from steel, other metal or other material which does not significantly lose its resilience over time. The spring retainer has elongate fingers which cooperate with the flexible fingers 108' so as to urge them radially-inwardly. Once the needle cover 17 has been removed, the spring retainer 111 urges the enlarged heads 109' into firm contact with the cone 93 of the syringe, even if the flexible fingers 108' are no longer capable of doing so. This position is illustrated in Figures 19 and 20.

    [0064] As illustrated in Figure 21, the gripping means (109 or 109') could alternatively be provided in the form of a clip 112, inserted axially into a slot 113 in the syringe holder so as to clip onto the front of the barrel.

    [0065] Other means of providing a reaction surface for the front of the barrel so as to provide a compressive force during injection can be envisaged, for example a tapered elastomeric bush which could be snapped into place once the needle cover has passed during assembly. It may be possible to grip the frontmost part of the cone, where the needle enters the cone, rather than gripping the exterior thereof. Alternatively, other means for gripping the front shoulder of the barrel, or the exterior of the cone may be envisaged.

    [0066] It is observed that the viewing windows 103, 103' in the syringe holder are apertures which create space through which glass fragments could move in the event of a breakage. If a breakage occurs, it is highly desirable to contain any glass fragments so as to minimise the risk of injury. Therefore, in an alternative embodiment (not illustrated), the apertures of the viewing windows are replaced by a solid but transparent or partially transparent material which still permits the user to view the interior of the syringe. Either the apertures 103, 103' can be "filled" with a transparent material so as to form a window in the more conventional sense of the word; alternatively, all of part of the syringe holder may be manufactured from transparent or partially transparent material.

    [0067] The reader's attention is directed to all papers and documents which are filed concurrently with or previous to this specification in connection with this application and which are open to public inspection with this specification.

    [0068] Each feature disclosed in this specification (including any accompanying claims, abstract and drawings), may be replaced by alternative features serving the same, equivalent or similar purpose, unless expressly stated otherwise. Thus, unless expressly stated otherwise, each feature disclosed is one example only of a generic series of equivalent or similar features.

    [0069] The invention is not restricted to the details of any foregoing embodiments. The invention extends to any novel one, or any novel combination, of the features disclosed in this specification (including any accompanying claims, abstract and drawings), or to any novel one, or any novel combination, of the steps of any method or process so disclosed.


    Claims

    1. An autoinjector comprising a housing in which can be mounted a syringe comprising:

    a barrel for holding a volume of medicament,

    a needle (10) at one end of the barrel in fluid communication with the medicament,

    a plunger axially-moveable in the barrel to a forwardmost position;

    a needle sheath (16) which is capable of sealing the forwardmost end of the needle to maintain sterility of the medicament within the barrel whereby, in use, the needle sheath must be removed from the needle immediately prior to actuating the autoinjector; and

    a removable needle cover (17) for containing the needle sheath (16);

    the autoinjector comprising:

    a syringe support means (100, 100') for supporting the barrel of the syringe at an axial location at or forward of the forwardmost position of the plunger of the syringe, the syringe support means (100, 100') providing a reaction surface (109, 109') for a front shoulder of the barrel or a narrowed cone region of the syringe where the needle is attached;

    characterised in that said syringe support means (100, 100') comprises an intermediate portion (105) and a front portion which together include radially spaced slots (107) that define a plurality of radially flexible fingers (108, 108'), the plurality of radially flexible fingers (108, 108') comprising one or more inwardly-directed protrusions which form said reaction surface, wherein the reaction surface (109, 109') is configured to provide an axial compressive force on the barrel of the syringe when a forward axial force is applied to the plunger of the syringe, and wherein when the syringe is inserted into the syringe support means (100, 100'), the radially flexible fingers (108, 108') flex radially outward from a normal position as a needle cover (17) passes and then spring back to their normal position.


     
    2. The autoinjector of claim 1 wherein said autoinjector is a single-use autoinjector.
     
    3. The autoinjector of any claim 1 or 2, configured so that the syringe is axially moveable in said housing and is biased so that the needle (10) is wholly inside said housing, wherein before injection the syringe is movable axially so as to move at least a part of said needle out of the housing and wherein after injection, the syringe is able to retract in order to retract said part of said needle into the housing.
     
    4. The autoinjector of any of the preceding claims wherein, in use, said reaction surface (109, 109') provides an axial compressive force to the front shoulder (92) or the front cone (93) of the syringe barrel.
     
    5. The autoinjector of any of the preceding claims wherein said inwardly-directed protrusions are on the end of one or more radially-flexible fingers (108, 108') and, preferably comprise an inwardly-directed enlarged head on the or each radially-flexible finger (108).
     
    6. The autoinjector of any of the preceding claims wherein an internal diameter between said inwardly-directed protrusions is smaller than the exterior diameter of the syringe barrel and, preferably, wherein, when the device is fully assembled ready for use, said inwardly-directed protrusions are axially located between a needle cover (17) and the front shoulder (92) of the syringe barrel.
     
    7. The autoinjector of any of the preceding claims wherein said syringe support means (100, 100') includes one or more viewing windows (103, 103'), to permit a user to view the barrel of a syringe supported therein, the viewing windows preferably comprising one or more apertures in the syringe support means or a transparent or partially transparent part of the syringe support means.
     
    8. The autoinjector of any of the preceding claims wherein said syringe support means (100, 100') further comprises one or more alignment tags (110, 110') at the front end thereof, the autoinjector preferably further comprising a front housing (200) having a bore (201) therethrough, the interior surface of the bore being provided with one or more longitudinal slots (202), positioned so that said alignment tags (110, 100') are locateable therein, when said front housing (200) and syringe support means (100, 100') are assembled together.
     
    9. The autoinjector of claim 8 wherein the or each longitudinal slot (202) comprises a rear section (203) having a forwardly-increasing depth and a forward section (204) having substantially constant depth, and preferably wherein a boundary between the rear and forward sections is defined by a step (205).
     
    10. The autoinjector of claim 9 further comprising an end cap (300) having internal protrusions (301) therein which protrude into the longitudinal slots (202) in the bore of the front housing (200), when said end cap and said front housing are assembled together, so that a space (302) is defined between said internal protrusions in the end cap and said step (205) in the front housing and, preferably, wherein the alignment tags (110, 110') of the syringe support means (100, 100') locate into said defined space (302) to determine the axial location of the syringe support means (100, 100') with respect to said front housing and further preferably wherein said syringe support means (100, 100') includes a radially-extending flange (104, 104'), of greater diameter than the interior diameter of said front housing (200).
     
    11. The autoinjector of any of the preceding claims, wherein the needle cover (17) and said needle sheath (16) are of larger diameter than the internal diameter between said radially-flexible fingers (108, 108') to pass thereby during assembly of a syringe into said autoinjector.
     
    12. The autoinjector of claim 11 when dependent on claim 10 wherein said axial location of the syringe support means (100, 100') with respect to the front housing is such that said radially-flexible fingers (108, 108') are not confined within said front housing (200) and are free to flex radially when the front housing and syringe support means are assembled together and before assembly of a rear part-assembly of the autoinjector thereto.
     
    13. The autoinjector as claimed in any of the preceding claims, in which is mounted a syringe comprising:

    a barrel for holding a volume of medicament,

    a needle (10) at one end of the barrel in fluid communication with said medicament; and

    a plunger axially-moveable in the barrel to a forwardmost position.


     
    14. The autoinjector of claim 13 wherein said syringe comprises a needle sheath (16) that substantially covers said needle (10) to protect the needle from mechanical damage and, preferably, entirely covers said needle (10) and seals against the syringe to maintain sterility of the external surface of the needle (10).
     
    15. The autoinjector of claim 14 wherein said needle sheath (16) comprises a solid elastomeric material into which the needle (10) is spiked and, preferably, wherein said needle sheath (16) is contained within a needle cover (17).
     
    16. The autoinjector of claim 15, wherein said radially-flexible fingers (108) are configured to flex sufficiently outwardly to allow the needle cover (17), said needle sheath (16) of larger diameter than the internal diameter between said radially-flexible fingers (108, 108') to pass thereby during assembly of a syringe into said autoinjector.
     
    17. The autoinjector of claim 15 or 16 wherein the finger flange (90) of the syringe barrel does not contact the syringe support means (100, 100') during delivery of the medicament.
     
    18. The autoinjector of claim 16 wherein, when the autoinjector is fully assembled ready for use, said inwardly-directed protrusions (109, 109') closely abut the needle cover (17) and/or said needle sheath (16) to reduce the risk of said needle sheath becoming loose or detached from the needle (10), potentially compromising the sterility of the needle.
     
    19. The autoinjector of any of the claims 13 to 18 wherein said syringe support means (100, 100') is generally cylindrical and of a diameter less than the diameter of the finger flange (90) of the syringe barrel so that the syringe support means is suitably sized to closely surround the barrel of the syringe.
     
    20. The autoinjector of any of claims 13 to 19 wherein the housing is an outer housing and at least part of the needle is axially moveable in and out of said outer housing but is biased to be wholly inside said housing, the autoinjector further comprising:

    an inner housing intermediate the outer housing and the barrel and plunger; and

    an energy source in communication with said inner housing,

    wherein the inner housing is moveable by the energy source between three positions, namely:

    a first position in which the inner housing is in communication with the barrel such that, in use, the plunger and barrel are movable axially so as to move at least part of said needle out of the outer housing;

    a second position in which the inner housing is in communication with the plunger but not the barrel such that, in use, said plunger is movable axially into said barrel so as to expel medicament through the needle; and

    a third position in which the inner housing is in communication with neither the plunger nor the barrel such that, in use, the plunger and barrel are able to retract in order to retract the needle into the outer housing.


     
    21. A method of assembling the autoinjector of any of the preceding claims comprising the steps of:

    providing a first part-assembly comprising a syringe support means (100, 100'), the syringe support means (100, 100') providing a reaction surface (109, 109') for a front shoulder of a barrel or a narrowed cone region of a syringe where a needle is attached , a front housing (200) and a closely fitting end cap (300), wherein said syringe support means (100, 100') comprises an intermediate portion (105) and a front portion (106) which together include radially spaced slots (107) that define a plurality of radially flexible fingers (108, 108'), the plurality of radially flexible fingers (108, 108') comprising one or more inwardly-directed protrusions which form said reaction surface; and

    providing a second part-assembly comprising a rear part of the autoinjector;

    providing a syringe comprising a barrel for holding a volume of medicament, a needle (10) at one end of the barrel; a plunger axially-moveable in the barrel to a forwardmost position; and a removable needle cover (17) for containing a needle sheath (16) which is capable of sealing a forwardmost end of the needle to maintain sterility of the medicament within the barrel, whereby in use, the needle sheath must be removed from the needle immediately prior to actuating the autoinjector;

    inserting the syringe axially into the rear end of the first part-assembly until said syringe support means (100, 100') supports the syringe; and

    assembling said first part-assembly and second part-assembly together so that said syringe support means supports the syringe at an axial location at or forward of the forwardmost position of the plunger, whereby in use said reaction surface (109, 109') provides an axial compressive force on said barrel when a forward axial force is applied to the plunger; and wherein when the syringe is inserted into the syringe support means (100, 100'), the radially flexible fingers (108, 108') flex radially outward from a normal position as the needle cover (17) passes and then spring back to their normal position.


     


    Ansprüche

    1. Autoinjektor, umfassend ein Gehäuse, in dem eine Spritze montiert werden kann, die umfasst:

    einen Zylinder zum Enthalten eines Arzneimittelvolumens, eine Nadel (10) an einem Ende des Zylinders in Fluidverbindung mit dem Arzneimittel, einen Kolben, der im Zylinder axial in eine vorderste Position bewegbar ist;

    eine Nadelhülle (16), die in der Lage ist, das vorderste Ende der Nadel abzudichten, um die Sterilität des Arzneimittels innerhalb des Zylinders zu erhalten, wobei im Gebrauch die Nadelhülle unmittelbar vor dem Betätigen des Autoinjektors von der Nadel entfernt werden muss; und

    eine abnehmbare Nadelabdeckung (17) zum Enthalten der Nadelhülle (16);

    wobei der Autoinjektor umfasst:

    eine Spritzentrageinrichtung (100, 100') zum Tragen des Zylinders der Spritze an einer axialen Position an oder vor der vordersten Position des Kolbens der Spritze, wobei die Spritzentrageinrichtung (100, 100') eine Reaktionsfläche (109, 109') für eine vordere Schulter des Zylinders oder einen verengten Kegelbereich der Spritze, an der die Nadel angebracht ist, bereitstellt;

    dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass die Spritzentrageinrichtung (100, 100') einen Zwischenabschnitt (105) und einen vorderen Abschnitt umfasst, die zusammen radial beabstandete Schlitze (107) umfassen, die eine Vielzahl von radial flexiblen Fingern (108, 108') definieren, wobei die Vielzahl von radial flexiblen Fingern (108, 108') einen oder mehrere nach innen gerichtete Vorsprünge umfassen, die die Reaktionsfläche bilden, wobei die Reaktionsfläche (109, 109') konfiguriert ist, um eine axiale Druckkraft auf den Zylinder der Spritze bereitzustellen, wenn eine axiale Vorwärtskraft auf den Kolben der Spritze ausgeübt wird, und wobei beim Einführen der Spritze in die Spritzentrageinrichtung (100, 100') sich die radial flexiblen Finger (108, 108') von einer normalen Position radial nach außen biegen, wenn eine Nadelabdeckung (17) passiert, und dann in ihre normale Position zurückspringen.


     
    2. Autoinjektor nach Anspruch 1, wobei der Autoinjektor ein Einweg-Autoinjektor ist.
     
    3. Autoinjektor nach einem der Ansprüche 1 oder 2, der so konfiguriert ist, dass die Spritze in dem Gehäuse axial bewegbar ist und so vorgespannt ist, dass sich die Nadel (10) vollständig in dem Gehäuse befindet, wobei die Spritze vor der Injektion axial bewegbar ist, um zumindest einen Teil der Nadel aus dem Gehäuse heraus zu bewegen, und wobei die Spritze nach der Injektion in der Lage ist, sich zurückzuziehen, um den Teil der Nadel in das Gehäuse zurückzuziehen.
     
    4. Autoinjektor nach einem der vorhergehenden Ansprüche, wobei im Gebrauch die Reaktionsfläche (109, 109') eine axiale Druckkraft auf die vordere Schulter (92) oder den vorderen Kegel (93) des Spritzenzylinders bereitstellt.
     
    5. Autoinjektor nach einem der vorhergehenden Ansprüche, wobei sich die nach innen gerichteten Vorsprünge am Ende eines oder mehrerer radial flexibler Finger (108, 108') befinden und vorzugsweise einen nach innen gerichteten vergrößerten Kopf an dem oder jedem radial flexiblen Finger (108) umfassen.
     
    6. Autoinjektor nach einem der vorhergehenden Ansprüche, wobei ein Innendurchmesser zwischen den nach innen gerichteten Vorsprüngen kleiner als der Außendurchmesser des Spritzenzylinders ist und vorzugsweise wobei, wenn die Vorrichtung vollständig gebrauchsfertig zusammengebaut ist, die nach innen gerichteten Vorsprünge axial zwischen einer Nadelabdeckung (17) und der vorderen Schulter (92) des Spritzenzylinders angeordnet sind.
     
    7. Autoinj ektor nach einem der vorhergehenden Ansprüche, wobei die Spritzentrageinrichtung (100, 100') ein oder mehrere Sichtfenster (103, 103') umfasst, um es einem Benutzer zu erlauben, den Zylinder einer darin getragenen Spritze zu betrachten, wobei die Sichtfenster vorzugsweise eine oder mehrere Öffnungen in der Spritzentrageinrichtung oder einen transparenten oder teilweise transparenten Teil der Spritzentrageinrichtung umfassen.
     
    8. Autoinjektor nach einem der vorhergehenden Ansprüche, wobei die Spritzentrageinrichtung (100, 100') ferner eine oder mehrere Ausrichtungsmarkierungen (110, 110') am vorderen Ende davon umfasst, wobei der Autoinjektor vorzugsweise ferner ein vorderes Gehäuse (200) umfasst, das eine Bohrung (201) dadurch aufweist, wobei die Innenfläche der Bohrung mit einem oder mehreren Längsschlitzen (202) versehen ist, die so positioniert sind, dass die Ausrichtungsmarkierungen (110, 100') darin lokalisierbar sind, wenn das vordere Gehäuse (200) und die Spritzentragzeinrichtung (100, 100') zusammengebaut sind.
     
    9. Autoinjektor nach Anspruch 8, wobei der oder jeder Längsschlitz (202) einen hinteren Abschnitt (203), der eine nach vorne zunehmende Tiefe aufweist, und einen vorderen Abschnitt (204), der eine im Wesentlichen konstante Tiefe aufweist, umfasst und vorzugsweise wobei eine Grenze zwischen dem hinteren und dem vorderen Abschnitt durch eine Stufe (205) definiert ist.
     
    10. Autoinjektor nach Anspruch 9, ferner umfassend eine Endkappe (300), die innere Vorsprünge (301) darin aufweist, die in die Längsschlitze (202) in der Bohrung des vorderen Gehäuses (200) hineinragen, wenn die Endkappe und das vordere Gehäuse zusammengebaut sind, so dass ein Raum (302) zwischen den inneren Vorsprüngen in der Endkappe und der Stufe (205) im vorderen Gehäuse definiert ist, und vorzugsweise wobei sich die Ausrichtungsmarkierungen (110, 110') der Spritzentrageinrichtung (100, 100') in dem definierten Raum (302) befinden, um die axiale Position der Spritzentrageinrichtung (100, 100') in Bezug auf das vordere Gehäuse zu bestimmen, und ferner vorzugsweise wobei die Spritzentrageinrichtung (100, 100') einen sich radial erstreckenden Flansch (104, 104') mit einem größeren Durchmesser als der Innendurchmesser des vorderen Gehäuses (200) umfasst.
     
    11. Autoinjektor nach einem der vorhergehenden Ansprüche, wobei die Nadelabdeckung (17) und die Nadelhülle (16) einen größeren Durchmesser als der Innendurchmesser zwischen den radial flexiblen Fingern (108, 108') aufweisen, um dadurch während des Zusammenbaus einer Spritze in den Autoinjektor zu gelangen.
     
    12. Autoinjektor nach Anspruch 11, wenn abhängig von Anspruch 10, wobei die axiale Position der Spritzentrageinrichtung (100, 100') in Bezug auf das vordere Gehäuse derart ist, dass die radial flexiblen Finger (108, 108') nicht innerhalb des vorderen Gehäuses (200) eingeschlossen sind und sich radial biegen können, wenn das vordere Gehäuse und die Spritzentrageinrichtung zusammengebaut sind und bevor eine hintere Teilanordnung des Autoinjektors daran montiert wird.
     
    13. Autoinjektor nach einem der vorhergehenden Ansprüche, in dem eine Spritze montiert ist, die umfasst:

    einen Zylinder zum Enthalten eines Arzneimittelvolumens, eine Nadel (10) an einem Ende des Zylinders in Fluidverbindung mit dem Arzneimittel; und

    einen Kolben, der im Zylinder axial in eine vorderste Position bewegbar ist.


     
    14. Autoinjektor nach Anspruch 13, wobei die Spritze eine Nadelhülle (16) umfasst, die die Nadel (10) im Wesentlichen bedeckt, um die Nadel vor mechanischer Beschädigung zu schützen, und vorzugsweise die Nadel (10) vollständig bedeckt und gegen die Spritze abdichtet, um die Sterilität der Außenfläche der Nadel (10) zu erhalten.
     
    15. Autoinjektor nach Anspruch 14, wobei die Nadelhülle (16) ein festes Elastomermaterial umfasst, in das die Nadel (10) eingestochen ist, und vorzugsweise wobei die Nadelhülle (16) innerhalb einer Nadelabdeckung (17) enthalten ist.
     
    16. Autoinjektor nach Anspruch 15, wobei die radial flexiblen Finger (108) so konfiguriert sind, dass sie sich ausreichend nach außen biegen, um zu ermöglichen, dass die Nadelabdeckung (17), die Nadelhülle (16) mit einem größeren Durchmesser als der Innendurchmesser zwischen den radial flexiblen Fingern (108, 108') dadurch während des Zusammenbaus einer Spritze in den Autoinj ektor gelangen.
     
    17. Autoinjektor nach Anspruch 15 oder 16, wobei der Fingerflansch (90) des Spritzenzylinders während der Abgabe des Arzneimittels die Spritzentrageinrichtung (100, 100') nicht berührt.
     
    18. Autoinjektor nach Anspruch 16, wobei, wenn der Autoinjektor vollständig gebrauchsfertig zusammengebaut ist, die nach innen gerichteten Vorsprünge (109, 109') eng an der Nadelabdeckung (17) und/oder der Nadelhülle (16) anliegen, um das Risiko zu verringern, dass sich die Nadelhülle lockert oder sich von der Nadel (10) löst, wodurch möglicherweise die Sterilität der Nadel beeinträchtigt wird.
     
    19. Autoinjektor nach einem der Ansprüche 13 bis 18, wobei die Spritzentrageinrichtung (100, 100') im Allgemeinen zylindrisch ist und einen Durchmesser aufweist, der kleiner als der Durchmesser des Fingerflansches (90) des Spritzenzylinders ist, so dass die Spritzentrageinrichtung geeignet bemessen ist, um den Spritzenzylinder eng zu umgeben.
     
    20. Autoinjektor nach einem der Ansprüche 13 bis 19, wobei das Gehäuse ein äußeres Gehäuse ist und mindestens ein Teil der Nadel axial in das äußere Gehäuse hinein und aus diesem heraus bewegbar ist, jedoch so vorgespannt ist, dass er sich vollständig im Inneren des Gehäuses befindet, wobei der Autoinjektor ferner umfasst:

    ein inneres Gehäuse zwischen dem äußeren Gehäuse und dem Zylinder und dem Kolben; und

    eine mit dem inneren Gehäuse in Verbindung stehende Energiequelle, wobei das innere Gehäuse durch die Energiequelle zwischen drei Positionen bewegbar ist, und zwar:

    einer ersten Position, in der das innere Gehäuse derart mit dem Zylinder in Verbindung steht, dass der Kolben und der Zylinder im Gebrauch axial bewegbar sind, um wenigstens einen Teil der Nadel aus dem äußeren Gehäuse heraus zu bewegen;

    einer zweiten Position, in der das innere Gehäuse derart mit dem Kolben, aber nicht mit dem Zylinder, in Verbindung steht, dass der Kolben im Gebrauch axial in den Zylinder bewegbar ist, um Arzneimittel durch die Nadel auszustoßen; und

    einer dritten Position, in der das innere Gehäuse derart weder mit dem Kolben noch mit dem Zylinder in Verbindung steht, dass der Kolben und der Zylinder im Gebrauch in der Lage sind, zurückzufahren, um die Nadel in das äußere Gehäuse zurückzufahren.


     
    21. Verfahren zum Zusammenbau des Autoinjektors nach einem der vorhergehenden Ansprüche, umfassend die Schritte:

    Bereitstellen einer ersten Teilanordnung, umfassend eine Spritzentrageinrichtung (100, 100'), wobei die Spritzentrageinrichtung (100, 100') eine Reaktionsfläche (109, 109') für eine vordere Schulter eines Zylinders oder einen verengten Kegelbereich einer Spritze, an der eine Nadel angebracht ist, bereitstellt, ein vorderes Gehäuse (200) und eine eng anliegende Endkappe (300), wobei die Spritzentrageinrichtung (100, 100') einen Zwischenabschnitt (105) und einen vorderen Abschnitt (106) umfasst, die zusammen radial beabstandete Schlitze (107) umfassen, die eine Vielzahl von radial flexiblen Fingern (108, 108') definieren, wobei die Vielzahl von radial flexiblen Fingern (108, 108') einen oder mehrere nach innen gerichtete Vorsprünge umfassen, die die Reaktionsfläche bilden; und

    Bereitstellen einer zweiten Teilanordnung, die einen hinteren Teil des Autoinjektors umfasst; Bereitstellen einer Spritze, umfassend einen Zylinder zum Enthalten eines Arzneimittelvolumens, eine Nadel (10) an einem Ende des Zylinders; einen Kolben, der im Zylinder axial in eine vorderste Position bewegbar ist; und eine abnehmbare Nadelabdeckung (17) zum Aufnehmen einer Nadelhülle (16), die in der Lage ist, ein vorderstes Ende der Nadel abzudichten, um die Sterilität des Arzneimittels innerhalb des Zylinders zu erhalten, wobei im Gebrauch die Nadelhülle von der Nadel unmittelbar vor dem Betätigen des Autoinjektors entfernt werden muss;

    Einführen der Spritze axial in das hintere Ende der ersten Teilanordnung, bis die Spritzentrageinrichtung (100, 100') die Spritze trägt; und

    Zusammenbauen der ersten Teilanordnung und der zweiten Teilanordnung, so dass die Spritzentrageinrichtung die Spritze an einer axialen Position an oder vor der vordersten Position des Kolbens trägt, wobei im Gebrauch die Reaktionsfläche (109, 109') eine axiale Druckkraft auf den Zylinder bereitstellt, wenn eine vordere axiale Kraft auf den Kolben ausgeübt wird; und wobei, wenn die Spritze in die Spritzentrageinrichtung (100, 100') eingeführt wird, sich die radial flexiblen Finger (108, 108') von einer normalen Position radial nach außen biegen, wenn die Nadelabdeckung (17) passiert, und dann in ihre normale Position zurückspringen.


     


    Revendications

    1. Injecteur automatique comprenant un logement dans lequel peut être montée une seringue comprenant :

    un corps pour contenir un volume de médicament,

    une aiguille (10) à une extrémité du corps en communication fluidique avec le médicament,

    un piston mobile axialement dans le corps jusqu'à une position la plus en avant ;

    une gaine d'aiguille (16) qui est capable de rendre étanche l'extrémité la plus en avant de l'aiguille pour préserver la stérilité du médicament à l'intérieur du corps, moyennant quoi, lors de l'utilisation, la gaine d'aiguille doit être retirée de l'aiguille immédiatement avant actionnement de l'injecteur automatique ; et

    un capuchon d'aiguille amovible (17) pour contenir la gaine d'aiguille (16) ;

    l'injecteur automatique comprenant :

    un moyen de support de seringue (100, 100') pour supporter le corps de la seringue en un emplacement axial au niveau ou en avant de la position la plus en avant du piston de la seringue, le moyen de support de seringue (100, 100') fournissant une surface de réaction (109, 109') pour un épaulement avant du corps ou une zone conique rétrécie de la seringue où l'aiguille est fixée ;

    caractérisé en ce que ledit moyen de support de seringue (100, 100') comprend une partie intermédiaire (105) et une partie avant qui comprennent ensemble des fentes radialement espacées (107) qui définissent une pluralité de doigts radialement flexibles (108, 108'), la pluralité de doigts radialement flexibles (108, 108') comprenant une ou plusieurs saillies dirigées vers l'intérieur qui forment ladite surface de réaction, ladite surface de réaction (109, 109') étant conçue pour fournir une force de compression axiale sur le corps de la seringue lorsqu'une force axiale vers l'avant est appliquée sur le piston de la seringue, et, lorsque la seringue est insérée dans le moyen de support de seringue (100, 100'), lesdits doigts radialement flexibles (108, 108') fléchissant radialement vers l'extérieur par rapport à une position normale pendant que le capuchon d'aiguille (17) passe et revenant ensuite par effet ressort à leur position normale.


     
    2. Injecteur automatique selon la revendication 1, ledit injecteur automatique étant un injecteur automatique à usage unique.
     
    3. Injecteur automatique selon l'une quelconque des revendications 1 ou 2, conçu de sorte que la seringue soit mobile axialement dans ledit logement et soit sollicitée de sorte que l'aiguille (10) soit entièrement à l'intérieur dudit logement, avant l'injection ladite seringue étant mobile axialement de manière à déplacer au moins une partie de ladite aiguille hors du logement et, après injection, ladite seringue étant capable de se rétracter afin de rétracter ladite partie de ladite aiguille dans le logement.
     
    4. Injecteur automatique selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, lors de l'utilisation, ladite surface de réaction (109, 109') fournissant une force de compression axiale sur l'épaulement avant (92) ou sur le cône avant (93) du corps de la seringue.
     
    5. Injecteur automatique selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, lesdites saillies dirigées vers l'intérieur se trouvant sur l'extrémité d'un ou plusieurs doigts radialement flexibles (108, 108') et comprenant de préférence une tête élargie dirigée vers l'intérieur sur ledit ou chaque doigt radialement flexible (108).
     
    6. Injecteur automatique selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, le diamètre interne entre lesdites saillies dirigées vers l'intérieur étant plus petit que le diamètre externe du corps de seringue et, de préférence, lorsque le dispositif est entièrement assemblé prêt à l'emploi, lesdites saillies dirigées vers l'intérieur étant disposées axialement entre un capuchon d'aiguille (17) et l'épaulement avant (92) du corps de seringue.
     
    7. Injecteur automatique selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, ledit moyen de support de seringue (100, 100') comprenant une ou plusieurs fenêtres de visualisation (103, 103'), pour permettre à un utilisateur de visualiser le corps d'une seringue supportée à l'intérieur, les fenêtres de visualisation comprenant de préférence une ou plusieurs ouvertures dans le moyen de support de seringue ou une partie transparente ou partiellement transparente du moyen de support de seringue.
     
    8. Injecteur automatique selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, ledit moyen de support de seringue (100, 100') comprenant en outre une ou plusieurs languettes d'alignement (110, 110') au niveau de son extrémité avant, l'injecteur automatique comprenant en outre de préférence un logement avant (200) doté d'un alésage (201) à travers celui-ci, la surface interne de l'alésage étant pourvue d'une ou plusieurs fentes longitudinales (202), positionnées de sorte que lesdites languettes d'alignement (110, 100') puissent y être localisées, lorsque ledit logement avant (200) et ledit moyen de support seringue (100, 100') sont assemblés ensemble.
     
    9. Injecteur automatique selon la revendication 8, ladite ou chaque fente longitudinale (202) comprenant une section arrière (203) qui présente une profondeur augmentant vers l'avant et une section avant (204) présentant une profondeur sensiblement constante, et de préférence une limite entre les sections arrière et avant étant définie par un échelon (205).
     
    10. Injecteur automatique selon la revendication 9, comprenant en outre un capuchon d'extrémité (300) comportant des saillies internes (301) en lui qui font saillie dans les fentes longitudinales (202) dans l'alésage du logement avant (200), lorsque ledit capuchon d'extrémité et ledit logement avant sont assemblés ensemble, de sorte qu'un espace (302) soit défini entre lesdites saillies internes dans le capuchon d'extrémité et ledit échelon (205) dans le logement avant et, de préférence, lesdites languettes d'alignement (110, 110') des moyens de support de seringue (100, 100') se trouvant dans ledit espace défini (302) pour déterminer l'emplacement axial du moyen de support de seringue (100, 100') par rapport audit logement avant et de préférence encore ledit moyen de support de seringue (100, 100') comportant un rebord s'étendant radialement (104, 104'), d'un diamètre supérieur au diamètre interne dudit logement avant (200).
     
    11. Injecteur automatique selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, ledit capuchon d'aiguille (17) et ladite gaine d'aiguille (16) présentant un diamètre plus grand que le diamètre interne entre lesdits doigts radialement flexibles (108, 108') pour passer ainsi pendant le montage d'une seringue dans ledit injecteur automatique.
     
    12. Injecteur automatique selon la revendication 11 lorsqu'elle dépend de la revendication 10, ledit emplacement axial du moyen de support de seringue (100, 100') par rapport au logement avant étant tel que lesdits doigts radialement flexibles (108, 108') ne sont pas confinés dans ledit logement avant (200) et sont libres de fléchir radialement lorsque le logement avant et le moyen de support de seringue sont assemblés ensemble et avant le montage d'un assemblage partiel arrière de l'injecteur automatique sur celui-ci.
     
    13. Injecteur automatique selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, dans lequel est montée une seringue comprenant :

    un corps pour contenir un volume de médicament, une aiguille (10) à une extrémité du corps en communication fluidique avec ledit médicament ; et

    un piston mobile axialement dans le corps jusqu'à une position la plus en avant.


     
    14. Injecteur automatique selon la revendication 13, ladite seringue comprenant une gaine d'aiguille (16) qui recouvre sensiblement ladite aiguille (10) pour protéger l'aiguille des dommages mécaniques et, de préférence, recouvre entièrement ladite aiguille (10) et fait étanchéité contre la seringue pour préserver la stérilité de la surface externe de l'aiguille (10).
     
    15. Injecteur automatique selon la revendication 14, ladite gaine d'aiguille (16) comprenant un matériau élastomère solide dans lequel l'aiguille (10) est piquée et, de préférence, ladite gaine d'aiguille (16) étant logée dans un capuchon d'aiguille (17).
     
    16. Injecteur automatique selon la revendication 15, lesdits doigts radialement flexibles (108) étant conçus pour fléchir suffisamment vers l'extérieur pour permettre au capuchon d'aiguille (17), ladite gaine d'aiguille (16) étant de plus grand diamètre que le diamètre interne entre lesdits doigts radialement flexibles (108, 108'), de passer par celle-ci lors du montage d'une seringue dans ledit injecteur automatique.
     
    17. Injecteur automatique selon la revendication 15 ou 16, ledit rebord de doigt (90) du corps de seringue n'entrant pas en contact avec le moyen de support de seringue (100, 100') pendant l'administration du médicament.
     
    18. Injecteur automatique selon la revendication 16, lorsque l'injecteur automatique est entièrement assemblé prêt à l'emploi, lesdites saillies dirigées vers l'intérieur (109, 109') venant en butée étroite contre le capuchon d'aiguille (17) et/ou ladite gaine d'aiguille (16) pour réduire le risque de desserrement ou de détachement de ladite gaine d'aiguille de l'aiguille (10), ce qui compromettrait potentiellement la stérilité de l'aiguille.
     
    19. Injecteur automatique selon l'une quelconque des revendications 13 à 18, ledit moyen de support de seringue (100, 100') étant généralement cylindrique et d'un diamètre inférieur au diamètre du rebord de doigt (90) du corps de seringue de sorte que le moyen de support de seringue soit dimensionné de manière appropriée pour entourer étroitement le corps de la seringue.
     
    20. Injecteur automatique selon l'une quelconque des revendications 13 à 19, ledit logement étant un logement externe et au moins une partie de l'aiguille étant mobile axialement dans et hors dudit logement externe mais étant sollicitée pour se trouver complètement à l'intérieur dudit logement, l'injecteur automatique comprenant en outre :

    un logement interne entre le logement externe et le corps et le piston ; et

    une source d'énergie en communication avec ledit logement interne, ledit logement interne pouvant être déplacé par la source d'énergie entre trois positions, à savoir :

    une première position dans laquelle le logement interne est en communication avec le corps de sorte que, lors de l'utilisation, le piston et le corps soient mobiles axialement de manière à déplacer au moins une partie de ladite aiguille hors du logement externe ;

    une deuxième position dans laquelle le logement interne est en communication avec le piston mais non avec le corps de sorte que, lors de l'utilisation, ledit piston soit mobile axialement dans ledit corps de manière à expulser le médicament à travers l'aiguille ; et

    une troisième position dans laquelle le logement interne n'est en communication ni avec le piston ni avec le corps de sorte que, lors de l'utilisation, le piston et le corps puissent se rétracter afin de rétracter l'aiguille dans le logement externe.


     
    21. Procédé de montage de l'injecteur automatique selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes, comprenant les étapes de :

    fourniture d'un premier assemblage partiel comprenant un moyen de support de seringue (100, 100'), le moyen de support de seringue (100, 100') fournissant une surface de réaction (109, 109') pour un épaulement avant d'un corps ou d'une zone conique rétrécie d'une seringue où une aiguille est fixée, un logement avant (200) et un capuchon d'extrémité étroitement ajusté (300), ledit moyen de support de seringue (100, 100') comprenant une partie intermédiaire (105) et une partie avant (106) qui comprennent ensemble des fentes radialement espacées (107) qui définissent une pluralité de doigts radialement flexibles (108, 108'), la pluralité de doigts radialement flexibles (108, 108') comprenant une ou plusieurs saillies dirigées vers l'intérieur qui forment ladite surface de réaction ; et

    fourniture d'un deuxième assemblage partiel comprenant une partie arrière de l'injecteur automatique ;

    fourniture d'une seringue comprenant un corps pour contenir un volume de médicament ; une aiguille (10) à une extrémité du corps ; un piston mobile axialement dans le corps jusqu'à une position la plus en avant; et un capuchon d'aiguille amovible (17) pour contenir une gaine d'aiguille (16) qui est capable de rendre étanche une extrémité la plus en avant de l'aiguille pour préserver la stérilité du médicament à l'intérieur du corps, moyennant quoi, lors de l'utilisation, la gaine d'aiguille doit être retirée de l'aiguille immédiatement avant actionnement de l'injecteur automatique ;

    insertion de la seringue axialement dans l'extrémité arrière du premier assemblage partiel jusqu'à ce que ledit moyen de support de seringue (100, 100') supporte la seringue ; et

    montage desdits premier assemblage partiel et second assemblage partiel ensemble de sorte que ledit moyen de support de seringue supporte la seringue en un emplacement axial au niveau ou en avant de la position la plus en avant du piston, moyennant quoi, lors de l'utilisation, ladite surface de réaction (109, 109') fournit une force de compression axiale sur ledit corps lorsqu'une force axiale vers l'avant est appliquée sur le piston ; et, lorsque la seringue est insérée dans le moyen de support de seringue (100, 100'), lesdits doigts radialement flexibles (108, 108') fléchissant radialement vers l'extérieur par rapport à une position normale lorsque le capuchon d'aiguille (17) passe, et revenant ensuite par effet ressort à leur position normale.


     




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    REFERENCES CITED IN THE DESCRIPTION



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    Patent documents cited in the description