A single-use, disposable inhaler could revolutionise emergency vaccination programmes in response to natural disasters.
A feasibility project carried out by medical product design and development company Team Consulting has demonstrated that their Occoris low-cost aerosolisation engine concept could be used to manufacture disposable inhalers for mass vaccinations for less than 15p per unit.
The technology administers medicines or vaccines via dry powder rather than liquids, which are more stable and do not have to be kept refrigerated – a particular problem for emergency vaccination programmes in response to natural disasters.
An inhaler based solution also avoids complications and risks associated with using a needle and syringe, which combined with the ability to set a precise dose, could allow patients to self-administer.
Once fully developed and approved by regulators, the study found the technology could enable the use of inhaled drugs for immunisation, pain relief, diabetes and many other conditions as well.
Professor Peter Barnes, head of Respiratory Medicine at Imperial College London, said: “This is an innovative and exciting technology with great potential. It could enable pulmonary delivery of drugs in many different areas, for example in therapies requiring higher payloads such as inhaled antibiotics and systemic drug delivery.”
Inhalers have been used for many years to deliver drugs to the lungs to treat airway diseases such as asthma, COPD and more recently cystic fibrosis, but performance limitations have meant they cannot be used more widely.
But the feasibility project, which was part-funded by the UK’s Technology Strategy Board, has demonstrated that Occoris can deliver more than 70 per cent into the lungs, compared to 20 to 40 per cent in existing inhalers, meaning far less is deposited in the mouth and throat where there are often unwanted side effects and no therapeutic benefit.
Inhalers based on Occoris would not be solely reliant on the patient’s inhalation as the energy contained within the inhaler ensures the drug can be aerosolised correctly and consistently, which overcomes some of the usability issues surrounding inhalers.
As well as its suitability for vaccinations, the study also found that the Occoris system could make inhaled pain relief feasible. Oral painkillers take around half an hour to provide therapeutic effect, whereas using inhalers could provide pain relief within seconds.
David Harris, head of Respiratory Drug Delivery at Team Consulting said: “Occoris shows the potential to unlock therapies that are currently beyond the reach of existing inhaler technologies, marking a step-change in dry powder inhaler performance.
“If you look at a situation like the recent disaster in the Philippines, where healthcare workers struggled to keep vital liquid vaccines refrigerated to prevent outbreaks of disease, you can see just how valuable a technology like Occoris could be in the future.”