24 July 2013

Good news for 200 million asthma sufferers

Inhaler spray
Nearly 200 million asthma sufferers worldwide could soon be benefiting from new technology which makes inhaler drug delivery more consistent and efficient.

The latest statistics1 indicate that around 193 million people suffer from asthma worldwide, including 24 million in the United States, 20 million each in India and China, and seven million in the United Kingdom.

Sufferers are heavily reliant on their inhalers to alleviate their symptoms. However, current inhaler designs and the typical size range of particles means that a large proportion of the medication propelled into a patient’s throat remains there. Only a fraction reaches the lungs.

Thanks to chemical engineers at Monash University in Australia, asthma inhalers could soon become more effective thanks to a clever new way of manufacturing the particles delivered by the inhalers.

The new manufacturing method, known as anti-solvent vapour precipitation, uses ethanol to dehydrate droplets, and results in super-small particles of uniform size. The ultrafine uniform particles ensure that fewer drug particles get stuck in the throat while more can reach the lower regions of the lungs.

The new method results in particles smaller than a micron (thousandth of a millimetre) in diameter – much smaller than those produced by conventional dehydrating mechanisms, which are limited by the size of the atomised droplet.

The team in Australia are also using the new manufacturing method on protein-based medicines which may improve drug delivery taken orally.

David Brown, chief executive of the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) said: “This is excellent news from the chemical engineering team at Monash and another great example of how chemical engineers are trying to improve the quality of life of millions of people across the world.

“There will be huge interest in this new technology around the world with its potential to alleviate the debilitating and often life threatening effects caused by asthma.”

Improving health and wellbeing is just one of the issues identified in IChemE’s latest technical strategy, Chemical Engineering Matters. Other major themes identified in the strategy include food, water and energy.

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IChemE is a registered charity in England & Wales (214379), and a charity registered in Scotland (SC 039661).