Breathing Management at Your Fingertips: Smart Inhalers

The first technology advance I would like to discuss is the advancement of inhalers. For years, individuals with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and various other respiratory illnesses have been using multiple types of inhalers to improve their breathing. What are inhalers? Inhalers such as Albuterol/Proventil inhaler is a handheld medical device used to deliver medications into the body through the oral passageway into the lungs. Inhalers are primarily used to treat asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

asthma inhaler

The use of inhalers has varied, with some individuals barely using them and others insisting that their inhalers remain at the bedside, so they can use them continuously, which is inappropriate and a misuse of the medication. Unfortunately, this misuse is common among some individuals and can lead to detrimental outcomes. The increased use of the medication could unintentionally mask an underlying need to investigate the cause of continued exacerbation, which is caused by constriction of the airway passages.

chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

“In April 2014, a 13-year-old girl from Newcastle, England, died from an asthma attack. Her GP had not referred her to a specialist or increased her medication despite her worsening condition in the months leading up to her death. The coroner’s report says she was seen by doctors in primary and secondary care 47 times in the last four years of her life but offered only treatment for acute attacks and no long-term care plan. Her death preyed on anxieties among respiratory specialists that asthma care is failing patients” (Mohammadi, 2017).

asthma inflamed bronchial tube

“This strategy was no isolated case. A national review of asthma deaths that same year found that two-thirds of the 1,200 asthma deaths that happened in the UK each year could be avoided was sample routine care” (2017). Senior Policy Officer Joseph Clift pointed out that the current asthma model needs to be updated, and general practitioners need to stress the importance of an annual asthma review (2017).

As with any chronic disease, it is imperative to control the symptoms, especially those of asthma and COPD. Better control can lead to optimum oxygen exchange and fewer exacerbation flare-ups. Research suggests that one of the ways that asthma and COPD may be controlled is by using a smart inhaler. Yes, a smart inhaler with Bluetooth technology that can “…detect inhaler use, remind patients when to take their medication, and gather data that can guide care” (Mohammadi, 2017).

According to Timothy Aungst, PharmD, the world’s first smart inhaler is expected to land on pharmacy shelves by the year 2020, which is not too far in the future (2019). “Teva’s ProAir Digihaler (albuterol sulfate) is being introduced to the United States market through an sNDA application, and it will join Proteus Digital Health as being potential game-changer for digital medicines” (Aungst, 2019). The inhaler will have a sensor that will track usage and sync it to a mobile app. The inhaler will also be able to assess for proper inhalation and provide feedback.

The smart inhaler, as with any other new product that hits the market will most likely experience positive and negative feedback, including feedback about the effectiveness of the product, as well as the ease of use. The mobile app will also undergo its own positive and negative scrutiny. Despite the expected pushback, the product will most likely make it to the pharmacy shelves.

girl using asthma inhaler

Change is evitable when it comes to technology, and the technology that comes with the Smart Inhaler may provide the opportunity to improve asthma and COPD exacerbations. Health care providers, specifically pharmacists, need to embrace the new inhalers and consider them an opportunity to monitor patient usage, collect data, and educate the patient. Additionally, if Physicians and primary care providers decide to add the new smart inhalers to their pharmaceutical toolbox, they will open up an educational opportunity to educate their clients about the importance of annual asthma reviews.

Aungst, T. (2019, January 22). World’s First Smart Inhaler is Arriving. Retrieved October 30, 2019, from Pharmacy Times:

Mohammadi, D. (2017). Smart inhalers: will they help to improve asthma care? The Pharmaceutical Journal, 1-12. Retrieved October 30, 2019, from…