Smart inhalers can help people living with asthma and COPD gain better control over their condition, understand triggers, provide information to doctors, gather valuable data for research, and – most importantly – save lives.
There is a good chance you are reading this on your smartphone. You may well have a smart speaker. Perhaps even smart light bulbs, a smart thermostat, or a smart vacuum cleaner. These days, any regular item that comes with some form of connectivity (such as WiFi or Bluetooth) is labeled smart and joins what is known as the ‘Internet of Things’.
Medical devices are no exception. And whereas most smart devices are simply designed to make life easier, smart medical devices can be lifesaving.
The humble inhaler is one of the devices undergoing a smart transformation. They can help you stick to your medication regimen and collect data that can provide insight into how well your treatment is working. They may even predict attacks days in advance (check out number 4). Here are four of the smart inhalers leading the way.
1. Propeller Smart Inhaler
What is the Propeller Smart Inhaler and How Does it Work?
Propeller Health, bought by ResMed for a reported $225 million, offers a small sensor that fits on your inhaler.
The sensor pairs with your smartphone or tablet and sends data to the accompanying app, available for iOS and Android, tracking medication use and offering other insights. For example, it uses information such as air quality in your location to provide tips for the day. You can also program your medication schedule and the sensor will track how well you are sticking to your treatment and remind you when you need to take a dose.
The Propeller ‘Hub’ is an additional device that plugs into a power outlet and syncs your data with Propeller and your care provider. Propeller uses aggregated data and machine learning to help provide insights into local environmental triggers, while your doctor can use the data to get a better idea of how effective your treatment is.
Propeller says its solutions have been studied in over 15 clinical trials involving over 2,500 patients, which have demonstrated a 79% reduction in asthma attacks and use of rescue inhalers, up to a 50% increase in medication adherence, and up to 50% more symptom-free days.
Does the Propeller Have FDA/EU Approval?
How Much Does the Propeller Cost?
The Propeller sensor is free to users who qualify. Costs are covered by the company’s partners, including pharmaceutical companies, research groups, insurance plans, and individual healthcare providers.
You will need a specific sponsor to receive a Propeller sensor. If you’ve not been referred by one of Propeller’s clients, you can contact Propeller to discuss your eligibility and the steps you can take to receive sponsorship.
- Visit Propeller Health’s website: propellerhealth.com
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2. FindAir ONE
What is the FindAir ONE and How Does it Work?
Much like the Propeller, the FindAir ONE is a sensor that attaches to your existing inhaler.
Launched in the European market at the start of 2019, the FindAir ONE comes with an accompanying app (currently only available on Android) and web portal. The data collected measures how a patient uses their inhaler and cross-references it with information such as air quality, pollen count, and weather conditions. Like the Propeller, this can help identify specific patterns and triggers, which can help people prevent asthma attacks from occurring in the first place.
It also warns you when the connection between the sensor and your phone is lost, in case you have accidentally left your inhaler behind.
FindAir has emphasized that its approach is different from its competitors, as it sells the ONE directly to consumers rather than relying on partners and organizations in the healthcare industry.
Does the FindAir ONE Have FDA/EU Approval?
The FindAir ONE is currently only available in Europe, where it is CE certified and compliant with the EU’s Medical Device Directive.
The company has not indicated if or when it plans to expand to other markets such as the US.
How Much Does the FindAir ONE Cost?
At the time of writing, the FindAir ONE is listed at a ‘launch promo’ price of €59, down from the regular price of €89. This includes a 12-month premium app subscription. The sensor itself needs replacing after 12 months as it has a non-removable battery.
- Visit FindAir’s website: findair.eu
3. Adherium Hailie
What is the Adherium Hailie and How Does it Work?
Another company who sell directly to the consumer is Adherium. The company cites 76 clinical studies involving its Hailie solution, saying it improves adherence, reduces severe flares, and reduces the need for oral steroid medications in children.
It’s device fits around inhalers; currently, four Hailies are available, each compatible with a specific inhaler. Of them, three are rechargeable.
Like the Propeller and FindAir ONE, the Hailie has an accompanying app (iOS and Android) and web portal, which can be shared with your doctor.
Does the Adherium Hailie Have FDA/EU Approval?
In 2018, Adherium received FDA 510(k) clearance for over the counter sales of its Hailie sensors. The sensors are also CE certified, although they are not readily available in Europe.
How Much Does the Adherium Hailie Cost?
At the time of writing, all four versions of the Hailie are out of stock on Adherium’s website and no pricing information is available. However, the items are listed on BestBuy’s website for $159.99, which includes a 12-month subscription to the accompanying app. Hailie sensors may also be available at your local pharmacy.
- Visit Adherium’s website: hailie.com
4. Teva ProAir Digihaler
What is the Teva ProAir Digihaler and How Does it Work?
Teva purchased Gecko Health Innovations in 2015, one of the companies who made smart inhaler attachments similar to those listed above. The research and development that has been performed in the subsequent years resulted in the ProAir Digihaler.
Unlike the sensors already mentioned, the ProAir Digihaler is an all-in-one device rather than an attachment. The array of sensors built into the device not only measure the information the others do but can also measure users’ peak inspiratory flow rate.
The ability to measure peak inspiratory flow rate sets it apart from the competition. The data accumulated will make it possible to build an algorithm that can “predict exacerbation five or six days before it hits,” according to Dr. Lena Granovsky, director of analytics and big data at Teva.
The accompanying app (which will be available on both iOS and Android) will be able to connect to up to five inhalers at once, each of which can be added by scanning a QR code on the device.
The ProAir Digihaler is going through a small number of pilot programs this year, with a full national launch planned for 2020.
Does the Teva ProAir Digihaler Have FDA/EU Approval?
Teva received FDA clearance for the ProAir Digihaler in December 2018, allowing the company to begin its pilot programs in anticipation of a national launch in the US. Teva has not yet announced when they plan to launch the ProAir Digihaler in Europe or other markets worldwide.
How Much Does the Teva ProAir Digihaler Cost?
Teva has not yet announced information regarding costs. Insurance currently covers most or all of the cost of inhalers, which tend to cost between $30 and $60.
- Visit Teva ProAir Digihaler’s website: proairdigihaler.com
Although smart inhalers are not a new idea, the technology is getting ever-more advanced and evidence that they can provide real benefits is stacking up. They have the potential to give asthma and COPD patients better control over their treatment by increasing adherence, providing insight into triggers, and helping ensure people use inhalers correctly.
The data amassed can also be valuable for research and may even make it possible to predict and prevent attacks days in advance. Aside from improving the lives of people living with asthma and COPD, preventing attacks could save the healthcare industry huge sums of money.
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