Diabetes Forecast

Pain Reliever: Amy Baxter, MD

A cute vibrating bee eases the fear and sting of injections

By Tracey Neithercott ,

Photograph by Gregory Miller

The better we can help people cope early on, the better they’re going to manage their diabetes later.
Amy Baxter, MD, developer of the injection aid Buzzy

Though emergency room doctor Amy Baxter, MD, was no stranger to needle phobia, her son’s traumatic experience with a vaccine shot hammered home how truly debilitating it can be. Max was then 4 years old and so terrified of shots that he vomited each time he was forced to go to the doctor. The scene isn’t unusual. According to Baxter, 63 percent of kids have a severe fear of being stuck with a needle.

Baxter, director of emergency research at Scottish Rite Children’s Hospital in Atlanta and clinical associate professor at the Medical College of Georgia, has dedicated much of her career to researching the topic. She’s also spent considerable time devising a way to make needle pricks less painful and scary.

Baxter’s eureka moment came in 2004 during a drive home with a vibrating steering wheel. By the time she reached for her doorknob, her hands were numb. Baxter began to think about how vibrations desensitize the nerves. She experimented and found that by using the pulsing of a personal massager along with ice to numb an area, she could successfully reduce pain.

The result was Buzzy, a cute vibrating bee with ice pack wings that seems to take the sting and fear out of injections. Baxter put an early prototype of Buzzy to the test. In a study of kids receiving IV insertions, Baxter found that her Buzzy prototype reduced pain by half compared with topical pain relievers and by 81 percent compared with doing nothing.

As she continued her research, Baxter learned the ins and outs of running a business and built her company, MMJ Labs, finding funding for Buzzy’s development and talking to design firms that could create a kid-friendly product—though plenty of adults use it, too. Baxter’s company launched in 2009, doubled sales by 2010, and tripled revenues this year. “We’ve really just barely been able to stay ahead of demand,” Baxter, 44, says.

Many customers are parents of children with diabetes who are told at diagnosis that they’ll have to repeatedly stick their fingers and use needles. “When I’m in the emergency room and I have a new diagnosis, that’s what every patient wants to talk about and what every kid fears: ‘Am I going to have to give shots?’ ” says Baxter.

Using Buzzy seems to numb that fear in children and please parents, who often tell Baxter their kids are more comfortable with day-to-day diabetes care because they’re not afraid to test their blood glucose or inject insulin. “The better we can help people cope early on,” she says, “the better they’re going to manage their diabetes later.”

Find more information on Buzzy at buzzy4shots.com.



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