Tara: What is your name, invention name and website URL?
Amy: Amy Baxter MD, Buzzy for Shots, www.buzzy4shots.com
Tara: Please could you tell me a little bit about where you are based, your background experience how you first started inventing?
Amy: It started about 10 years ago, when my 4 year old son had a horrible experience with shots. I had distraction toys and numbing cream, and he was calm and knew what to expect. When the time came for his immunizations, the needle wielding fiend skewered my son with a fierce glance and told him creams didn’t work and he better sit-there-and-be-still or this would really hurt. It did. Thereafter, he would become ill before and after a trip to the doctor. It turns out, 22% of adults have residual needle phobia acquired at around the same age of 4 – 5 years. I am an emergency pediatrician and have researched pain relief for 15 years. I’m in the system: if I can’t protect my kid, what about other moms? For that matter, how can anyone deal with healthcare administered pain if the system is stoic about patients’ pain? I set out to find a fast, effective solution that would be available to individuals everywhere to address needle pain.
Tara: Please could you tell me a little bit about your invention, what it is, and how you came up with the idea?
Amy: When you burn a finger and put it under cold water, the burn feels better. It’s not mental distraction: it turns out that the nerves that conduct sharp pain can be overridden by movement and vibration. When you bump your elbow, you rub it, or put a cold pack on. We take these remedies for granted, but they are a powerful physiologic opportunity. After lots of messy attempts, I had a eureka moment with a vibrator and frozen peas. The prototypes combining cell phone motors and ice cubes worked three times better than commercial numbing creams for my children, and I decided to take the plunge. My husband voiced the final argument. “If you don’t try this, how will you feel every time you hear someone cry with an IV, and wonder if you could have made a difference?” Two years ago, we launched Buzzy, a combination therapeutic massager and ice pack to place between the brain and the pain when having procedures. Published scientific studies show Buzzy decreases needle pain by half. When combined with our Bee-Stractor distraction cards, they reduce IV pain in children 85%. Adults who are more sensitive to needles get even better benefit.
Tara: What were the first steps you took after having your idea?
Amy: First, we videotaped a recreation that day of the Eureka moment. Then someplace after filing a patent for the concept and before actually having something I could use, I started trying to make an actual product. My neighbors donated used cell phones which my children smashed, and we harvested the vibrators. I put two little “coin vibrators” into the case of a cell phone, wired them to a switch I bought surplus online, and put yellow and black electrical tape around it. My husband drew a cute bee face on foam, and I attached cold cubes with elastic cord hot glued in place. When my daughter tried Buzzy versus a topical cream, Buzzy won handily with a “One hurty-face” on a scale of 0-6. Now how exactly do you mass produce and test a pain device made of smashed cell phones, electrical tape and hot glue?
Tara: Did you get presentation drawing sheets produced or make a prototype of your invention, how did you go about this?
Amy: We got lucky enough to find Formation Design in Atlanta, brilliant fun engineers who were well-connected to packaging, manufacturing, marketing, and legal connections. They took the concept of a different face for adolescents to heart, and “BuzzDudes” were born, savvy decals to decrease needle pain in kids too cool for a little bee buddy. With the help of Formation Design, we made prototypes using the computer design in a “stereolithography” or SLA rapid prototyping maching. Lasers zap a vat of resin that coagulates into a hard prototype layer by layer. So cool! I submitted a trial through our IRB and tested the prototypes versus cold spray on adult volunteers, the results of which were published this year in Clinical Journal of Pain.
Tara: Did you try and patent or protect your idea in any way and how did you go about it?
Amy: I wrote my own drafts with the help of “Patent it yourself”, then had a firm make the claims better worded. We filed in 2006, and just had claims approved last month.
Tara: Did you always intend manufacturing your invention yourself or did you look into licensing the idea?
Amy: Big pharma wasn’t interested in a reusable product, and for this to be going into the hands and homes of famlies, I insisted. Thus, I had to learn how to make it myself. How hard could it be, right?
Tara: How did you go about finding a suitable manufacturer for your invention and did you self fund this?
Amy: We applied for a grant from the Mayday Fund, a nonprofit which supports pain research. With this we were able to test a nicer, smaller prototype for IV sticks in children in the emergency department. During that time, we were interviewing various design firms, and found one we loved locally named Formation Design. Ultimately, we were advised by a research friend of mine to apply for a program called the Small Business Innovation Research (if you make your own for-profit firm). The Reagan-era program provides funding for proof of concept (Phase I) and for full product development research (Phase II/III). There is a lot of paperwork to qualify, but after three applications which each took roughly two months of work (before and after my day doctor job) for 2009 we were awarded about $960,000 to test Buzzy for pediatric immunizations.
Tara: What have you found are the best ways of promoting your invention?
Amy: We started a website called needle-pain-management.com, and filled it with information about pain prevention, options, and resources. This site was optimized to find our presumptive market. One five year old asked his mom to write after they got a Buzzy: he didn’t get shots, but the weekly 3-hour drama for his older sister’s medications was impacting the whole family. Buzzy turned the ordeal into a 5 minute non-issue. A woman showed up at our door with gifts and a ceramic ornament that said “Lifesaver”. Her father feared needles so much he had decided to quit dialysis. After she found our website, where expensive psychotherapy had failed, Buzzy succeeded. For arthritis, for diabetes, for multiple sclerosis, Buzzy started making a difference. We have letters from a 63 year old woman who used Buzzy for her first flu shot in decades, and hospitals across the country who are using Buzzy for cancer patients or routine lab draws. Buzzy is inexpensive, reusable, and works for everything from itching to splinters to bee-stings to injections. I keep learning more, and keep hearing more ways people use Buzzy. Autism distraction; eczema itching; botox and tattoos (and tattoo removal) and laser hair removal and tick removal and tummy tickling to keep infants from rolling off the changing table. Seriously: I know I’m biased, but why doesn’t everyone want a Buzzy? Early adopters at Child LIfe conferences have spread the word through more than 400 hospitals, but I need to learn how to bridge the gap to getting us in retail aisles.
Tara: What were the most difficult elements of bringing your invention to market?
Amy: Not having money for marketing. The SBIR was not allowed to be used to market.
Tara: How long has it taken from your initial idea to taking it to market?
Amy: August 4 2004 when the idea hit, to December 2008 when I got the first plastic lead-free cutie pie Buzzy staring back at me in from a package. We launched May 9, 2009.
Tara: Is there anything you learned developing your invention that you would now do differently if you had to do it all again?
Amy: I think our biggest market is for adults getting painful shots; I would have less kid-friendly marketing.
Tara: What advice would you give any aspiring inventor with an idea?
Amy: Groping forward in the dark with no illumination I felt ready to fall or be taken advantage of at every step. Looking back, the path options were more numerous and the pitfalls less deep than I felt they were at the time. There are many people happy to help; befriend mentors who have already succeeded and don’t have consulting jobs. If they think the idea is worth going for, many are happy to help.
Tara: Where can people find out more about you your invention?
Amy: our URL is buzzy4shots.com, or call me at 877 805 2899.
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