Asthma and COPD are common conditions that affect millions. The treatment for both is largely inhalers of one sort or another. Taking those inhalers correctly, at the right time in the right dose is incredibly important. The technology exists to improve all of those factors. There are several prototype Smart inhalers around if you google. Some link to smartphones to give more information. They can remind you to take the inhaler and they can judge how well you are using the inhaler and give you feedback to improve your technique. So they can improve compliance and concordance and linked to measures of how good your breathing is – both objective and subjective they can be used in the long-term monitoring reducing the need to attend.
SO WHY AREN’T WE USING THEM! Conspiracy theorists often have lots to say about pharma companies manipulating the markets and new product launches all being around patent expiries and product protection. Perhaps this is true? Perhaps its that taken correctly people might use fewer inhalers? perhaps its just the inhalers are more expensive and the companies don’t think they would get them prescribed? Though surely save a few admissions to hospital and you are talking real money.
Although many would say it might be against the principles of the NHS, that it is free at the point of care, how about offering the inhalers to patients direct? If they could take the cartridge out of their NHS prescriber inhaler and insert it into a reusable smart inhaler many might do this. Many of my poorer patients spent quite a lot of their income on things that they feel would make them feel better example copper bracelets alternative health treatments. While in my opinion, the Smart inhaler should be available to prescribe why isn’t it available to buy?