In the UK alone, there are more than 60 million inhalers prescribed as a key form of treatment every year, with 1 in every 5 people being diagnosed with a lung condition at some point during their lifetime. Due to the sheer amount prescribed every year, inhalers account for 3% of the NHS carbon footprint, according to research from NHS England.
Being a device user and a trained designer, brings a unique perspective to medical device development. This week, Design Director, Mark, shares insight into his experience of using inhalation devices as well as what his ideal inhaler would feature:
What inhaler do you currently use and which inhalers (if different) have you used in the past?
For the past few years I’ve been using the Teva DuoResp Spiromax, which is a breath actuated dry powder inhaler (DPI) and contains 2 active substances; budesonide and formoterol fumarate dihydrate.
Is there anything you dislike or that frustrates you about the inhaler you use/have used in the past?
Over the last 40 years, I’ve used many different inhalers and there are things I’d definitely change about them:
My very first preventative inhaler was a SpinHaler which was an assembly of 3 parts, plus a dry powder capsule (shown in the below image – one of my original ones from the 80’s!). To use the inhaler, the user would have to disassemble the device, remove the used capsule, load in a new one, reassemble, then pull a sleeve up and down to pierce the capsule. The inhaler itself had a plastic cylindrical case and the capsules were held loose in a separate plastic bottle. As a child, I hated taking this inhaler so much as it left powder and often pieces of the pierced capsule in my mouth!
Have you ever used an inhalation trainer device?
I may have used a trainer device during an asthma review at the doctors years ago but in my experience, they usually ask patients to bring their own inhaler with them to check how good their technique is. Peak flow meters are also used in asthma reviews to monitor how well a patient can push air out of their lungs.
Have you ever used a smart inhaler? – If so, how did you find it? If not, would you be interested in using one?
I have never used a smart inhaler but would be interested in trying one to see what benefits it can offer. The only information I need from the device is how many actuations are left but it would be handy if it could connect to the pharmacy app on my phone and order a new one when it’s running out.
Is the sustainability of your device a concern to you?
Dry powder inhalers are much more sustainable than pressurised metered dose inhalers due to the aerosol canisters used in pMDIs, so I am less concerned now that I only use a DPI. However, some of the packaging and instructions-for-use booklets are a little excessive. There is definitely a lot that could be done to make inhalation devices more sustainable.
What would be your ideal inhaler solution?
Bringing together some of the points mentioned above, my ideal inhaler would be: –
- A fully enclosed DPI with a quick and simple operation
- Highly effective drugs
- Compact design with rounded edges
- Less medical looking
- Quiet and discrete to use
Here at HD we have a wealth of experience in inhalation devices, whether that be knowledge gained from design, or from actual use. Having insight from real world users, such as our Design Director Mark, allows us to develop designs that are dealing with problems and frustrations faced by users day-to-day.