New Device Keeps You Honest About How You Use Your Inhaler

a doctor's prescription pad
Roni Shye
Roni Shye, PharmD BCGP BCACP, is a licensed pharmacist in the states of Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
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Asthma can feel different for everyone affected by it. For some people, allergies and various environmental allergens play a major role in the severity of their asthma. For others, triggers like perfume or exercise can lead to breathing problems.

If you have asthma, your doctor will most likely prescribe you a controller inhaler as well as a rescue inhaler. Controller or maintenance inhalers like Symbicort, Advair, and Flovent are used regularly to decrease the inflammation and swelling in the lungs associated with asthma. Rescue inhalers, on the other hand, are used to open your airways immediately when you’re having an asthma attack. These include Proair, Proventil, and Ventolin.

Using your maintenance inhaler regularly can help lessen the frequency and severity of asthma attacks—but many people aren’t using their maintenance inhalers correctly.

To help keep more people on track, a company called Adherium has recently received FDA clearance for their SmartTouch sensor. The sensor will only be used with AstraZeneca’s Symbicort inhaler for now.

What is SmartTouch?

SmartTouch is a device installed onto a an inhaler that will monitor and encourage adherence (taking your prescription as intended) as part of a self-management plan.

What is it meant to do?

According to the press release from Adherium, it’s common for patients with respiratory conditions, like asthma, to take only 30 – 50% of their prescribed medications! And believe it or not, they aren’t alone. The World Health Organization (WHO) notes that on average, 50% of folks suffering from chronic illnesses do not take their medications as prescribed. What’s the downside? It can be outright dangerous, with consequences including (obviously) your condition getting worse, but also increased costs, and even death.

How does SmartTouch work?

The SmartTouch device records the date and time the inhaler is used and automatically sends the info to an app on your phone or tablet.

It stores the history of your usage patterns, which also lets your doctor review the information and help make evidence-based decisions on how to best to meet your needs.

How is the device used?

SmartTouch is placed over the Symbicort inhaler—it’s designed to make installation and removal easy for everyone.

The SmartTouch design includes three buttons that help you easily access the audio-visual reminders, battery monitoring, and bluetooth pairing features.

How will SmartTouch help me?

According to Adherium, the SmartTouch can improve adherence by up to 59% in adults and 180% in children. That increased adherence was also associated with a 60% decrease in severe respiratory episodes in adults.

Is there already anything like SmartTouch out there already?

There are a couple of similar devices made by other companies, including CareTRx (previously known as GeckoCap, and recently purchased by TEVA pharmaceuticals) and Propeller Health (partnered with Boehringer Ingelheim).

Adherium also makes two other devices for inhalers (SmartTurbo and SmartTouch AV), but neither have been approved by the FDA for use in the US yet.

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