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Biomedical Research

Smart Inhalers

Smart Inhalers: an advanced form of inhalers with digital connection for effective respiratory management, reducing the chances of human errors due to manual usage.

By Pratiksha Baliga

Published 1:57 PM EST, Sun May 9, 2021

Introduction

Inhalers are medical devices used to treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease such as asthma by delivering bronchodilator medication to the airway directly, making use of a fast and sharp inspiratory force, without passing through the blood. The medicine within inhalers uses lactose molecules. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease affects over 200 million people around the world whereas asthma affects another 300 million. The chronic respiratory disease makes up a little over 8% of the world’s chronic disease burden. In order to mitigate the clinical severity of these conditions, the patients have to adhere to a strict medication schedule, with the dosage and timing being adjusted to achieve control of their symptoms.

With modern times coming into play, inhalers are powered by different forms of technology giving rise to a new generation of devices named Smart Inhalers. They are present with extra digital features of connection with mobile applications and help doctors and patients to manage asthmatic conditions in a better and improved way. 

Working and Features

Monitoring of medication schedules and dosage reminders is its main feature. A sensor on the inhaler communicates with the mobile application via Bluetooth to keep a  track of the inhaler using data in the app. The app records the date, time, and even the location of each dosage intake, and then using this information schedules the user’s next dose reminder. Some of these inhalers use a built-in sensor that is integrated into the body of the inhaler itself, while others, for example, can use propeller sensors which are external sensors that can be attached to various kinds of inhalers. Along with these features these inhalers also have high pollen and pollution alerts or the ability to sense if the user forgets to take their inhaler with them when they leave home. They can also indicate when the patient is overusing their preventive medicine pointing towards poorly controlled asthma.

Nowadays a smart cap called CapMedic for smart inhalers is used by people with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and other respiratory disorders. It is available only by prescription. It has to be placed on top of the inhaler and it houses sensors that guide users and collect data for remote patient monitoring. It connects via Bluetooth providing direct communication with patients for better effectiveness in management. The caps are reusable and rechargeable emitting visual, audio, and haptic signals letting the users know when an inhaler has been adequately shaken and is fully upright, among other parameters that ensure a full dose of medication. It fits on most of the smart inhalers available and pairs with an app on the phone that can send data to a clinician. It also incorporates a spirometer which measures the air capacity of the lungs.

World’s First Smart Inhaler

The world’s first smart inhaler was recently approved by the FDA, and named Teva’s ProAir Digihaler (albuterol sulfate). It was introduced to the United States market through an sNDA application and was said to join Proteus Digital Health as being a potential game-changer for digital medicines.The ProAir Digihaler is built on the RespiClick inhaler formulation. It has a sensor that tracks when it is used in real-time and syncs this data to a mobile app. The patient has to use an app to scan a QR code at the top of the inhaler, which will sync the inhaler to the app. The ProAir Digihaler can determine how well the patient uses it, as the sensor measures a breath actuation and sees how well a patient inhales giving them a rating.

The ProAir Digihaler is built on the RespiClick inhaler formulation. It has a sensor that tracks when it is used in real-time and syncs this data to a mobile app. The patient has to use an app to scan a QR code at the top of the inhaler, which will sync the inhaler to the app. The ProAir Digihaler can determine how well the patient uses it, as the sensor measures a breath actuation and sees how well a patient inhales giving them a rating.

Patients can view their event data through the ProAir companion app, which provides tips to improve inhaler techniques and offers medication reminders if they choose. They can also transmit the data directly to their doctors to keep a track of their condition, its management and bring about improvement in their treatment plan.

Conclusion

Following the wave of connected devices and smart health technologies coming up in the healthcare sectors, the future of digital health innovation will be brighter than before. Smart inhalers are considered by many the way the future will progress, essentially breathing fresh air into the management scope of chronic respiratory treatments in the years ahead. Its demand is considered to increase at a significant rate with novel opportunities to address more challenges associated with accessibility, quality, effectiveness, efficiency, and cost of healthcare.

Pratiksha Baliga, Youth Medical Journal 2021

References

[1]Berg, J., Arundhati Parmar  |  2:05 pm, A. 14, Stephanie Baum  |  7:30 am, A. 20, Elise Reuter  |  3:14 pm, A. 23, Anuja Vaidya  |  2:15 pm, A. 23, & Frank Vinluan  |  11:26 pm, A. 23. (2020, January 23). FDA clears smart inhaler cap from Cognita Labs. MedCity News. https://medcitynews.com/2020/01/fda-clears-smart-inhaler-cap-from-cognita-labs/?rf=1.[2]Thomas, D. L. (2021, January 11). What are Smart Inhalers? News. https://www.news-medical.net/health/What-are-Smart-Inhalers.aspx.

[2]Thomas, D. L. (2021, January 11). What are Smart Inhalers? News. https://www.news-medical.net/health/What-are-Smart-Inhalers.aspx.

By Pratiksha Baliga

Pratiksha Baliga is a medical student residing in Mumbai,India. She's interested in the fields of Neurology, Radiology, Medicine. She aspires to be a Neurologist.

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