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What’s the future for inhaled drug delivery devices?

Our ‘pink ball poll’ was in action on another exhibition stand again last week, this time at the Aerosol Society’s annual ‘Drug Delivery to the Lungs’ (DDL) conference in Edinburgh, Scotland. Having recently quizzed delegates at PDA Europe about preferences for self-injection, we thought we would broaden the scope and this time asked people to vote on nothing less than “the future of inhaled drug delivery devices”!

What will be the dominating focus for respiratory drug delivery in the next ten years or so?

team-consulting-at-ddl-drug-delivery-to-the-lungs-2017-collage
Our exhibition stand at DDL, and a preview of the results of our poll

 
What were our findings at DDL2017?

Did people think that a move to GENERIC devices would be the most significant trend? Would the drive to reduce costs across global markets be an over-riding influence, optimising and exploiting the broad range of device technologies we have available now rather than developing new generations of inhalers?

Or, with recent developments in sensing, wireless and mobile technologies, will the current explosion of interest in SMART (aka “Intelligent” or “Connected”) devices continue to grow? Will developers find ways to harness these technologies in ways which deliver the ultimate goal – better disease management maintained over time – while also fitting within the economic and organisational constraints of healthcare systems?

Of course, these categories are not mutually exclusive – it is easy to imagine smart technologies being used to tailor devices, for example – and we do not really expect one area to become the key industry focus at the expense of all others.

Perhaps there are greater relative gains to be made by pursuing the goal of HIGH EFFICIENCY, combining improvements in device and primary packaging design and drug formulation to achieve better, more consistent drug delivery performance across wider ranges of inhalation profiles and conditions. This is likely to become more important as inhalation extends into systemic delivery applications, but how dominant might it become?

Possibly a sub-set of high efficiency, but a specific area of interest in itself, we also wondered whether HIGH PAYLOAD devices may become a focus of attention. At Team we have seen increased interest across the industry in this topic, but perhaps it remains a niche requirement relative to other opportunities.

Our final category was TAILORED device solutions. We do what we can as device developers to ensure that inhalers perform as well in the hands of users as they do in the lab, but perhaps greater success could be achieved if we focused more closely the needs of specific user groups. Making devices more usable from an inhalation manoeuvre point of view, by tuning their flow / resistance / pressure drop characteristics to the particular inhalation profiles of specific user groups, is one example of this.

Of course, these categories are not mutually exclusive – it is easy to imagine smart technologies being used to tailor devices, for example – and we do not really expect one area to become the key industry focus at the expense of all others. But the results were interesting:

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Our results from asking DDL delegates: ‘What’s the future for inhaled drug delivery devices?’

 
It seems that, as far as the attendees at this year’s DDL conference are concerned, the future will be equally dominated by the generic and the smart, with some tailoring in specific therapy areas.

We’ll be back again next year and will see how things have started to develop.

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