Next Safety Develops Air-Based Asthma Medication Inhaler
Inhalers used for delivering albuterol, a fast-acting bronchial dilator, currently use propellants such as ozone-depleting CFC's, which are banned by the FDA beginning December 31st, 2009, or replacement HFA's. Both propellants are also used as industrial refrigerants and eject the medicine, albuterol, at near-supersonic speeds.
The Next Safety device supplies medication in a stream of air by ejecting the medication from a microfluidic pump automatically as the patient breathes, solving three problems:
(1) Propellants are eliminated. Patients are no longer required to inhale refrigerants.
(2) The medicine is not ejected at high speeds, where it is deposited on the back of the throat and ingested. This is such a concern that certain manufacturers of the new HFA-based albuterol inhalers recommend that patients "rinse and spit" after each treatment.
(3) Patients do not need to time their inhalation to match the push of a button. This is particularly important when administering albuterol to children where the parent is pressing a button hoping the child will breath at the same time. Therefore, parents can never be certain of dosing, which is one reason why 25% of all emergency room visits in the US are related to asthma.
The other method used to dose albuterol is the nebulizer, a large compressor-driven device that essentially sprays droplets of albuterol while a child breathes from a mist for a 20 - 30 minute period. This treatment, invented in 1975, is cumbersome and often not available to an asthmatic when a fast-acting dose of albuterol is needed.
Phillip Weaver, the President of Next Safety and an inventor of the technology, explains: "The device uses a silicon microfluidic pump to eject droplets of an off-the-shelf FDA-approved solution of albuterol sulfate in water that are a predetermined size into an air stream created by a miniature blower to deliver the droplets at the same speed of the patient's inhalation and in the correct size range for bronchial delivery."
According to Dr. Tom Stearn, a pulmonologist and consultant for Next Safety, "The platform offers the ability to deliver not only albuterol in air, but also other medications for treating asthma, such as fluticasone propionate and salmeterol xinofoate, the components of Advair." Certain chemical patents for Advair expired in August 2008.
The device also provides an electronic output to PDA's so that, in the future, doctors can monitor the results of specific doses of medications in addition to patient compliance.
Advanced designs of the platform use measurements of exhaled nitric oxide (NO) together with peak respiratory flow, which when combined are a predictor of an asthma attack, to automatically adjust doses and provide alarms to physicians and parents.