Taking on asthma and transforming patient treatment

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Taking on asthma and transforming patient treatment

Asthma leads to an emergency hospital admission every seven minutes in the UK, yet 75% of these admissions are preventable. Many of these attacks are brought on by panic at not having any reliever drug or the thought of running out.

What we did

As part of an Industrial Design MA, one of our students developed an idea for a new type of asthma inhaler that provides ‘just enough’ medication in a compact, discreet and easy to use package.

We helped the student to access a network of experts to take his idea further, and took him on as a member of staff following the completion of his MA. The project team worked with a range of design partners, teenage patients living with asthma and a team of respiratory medical professionals from Sheffield Teaching Hospitals. These first-hand insights allowed us to develop a deeper understanding of how asthma medication needed to be redesigned to fit more realistically around people's lives.

The inhaler is breath-actuated and simple to use, delivering a pre-metered dose of powdered medication. The inhaler contains five shots stored in the sealed unit and is automatically recharged after each use.

When combined with breath actuation, this simplifies the process for the individual, resulting in a more effective inhaler that also reduces problems due to poor user technique. The size of this new device is dramatically smaller than current inhalers on the market.

The result

The respiratory clinicians and teenagers with asthma we’ve surveyed support the new dry powder inhaler design. It has the potential to allow people with asthma more freedom and reassurance when going out and reduces any stigma associated with carrying a usual-sized inhaler. We are currently discussing the concept with manufacturers and negotiating a licensing deal to make the product a commercial reality.

They say

We're always telling people you must take your inhaler wherever you go. You've got something here that hasn't been done before. To be able to say to my patients "do you know about this?" would be great.

Clare Daniel, asthma nurse specialist, Northern General Hospital, Sheffield

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