Qmed Staff

October 24, 2013

3 Min Read
An iPod for Asthmatics



Over a decade ago, Garth Sutherland, a New Zealand-based engineer with more than 20 years of experience in the tech sector, wondered why technology had not been applied more effectively to the asthma monitoring and COPD space. Both conditions have no cure and can severely affect the quality of life of those suffering with the diseases. In the United states, COPD is the third leading cause of death, according to the CDC. Asthma, too is a severe problem. In 2010 in the United States, more than 439,000 patients were treated in hospitals with asthma as the primary diagnosis. An asthmatic himself, Sutherland set about founding a startup known as Nexus6 in 2001 that would integrate sensing technology into asthama inhalers to help improve the efficacy of treatment. 

The firm has developed a range of monitoring devices that track medication use. This functionality was designed to combat the problem of poor drug adherence, which is common for patients with asthma and COPD. According to the World Health Organization, between 30 and 70% of patients take their prescribed medication ineffectively. A number of studies indicate that asthma and COPD patients take between 30% and 50% of medications that are prescribed to them. In the United States, nonadherence for asthmatics and COPD patients has a price tag of more than $2000 per patients, as the problem leads to an increase in complications and hospitalizations, Sutherland says.

The Smartinhaler range of products enables patients to track their adherence over time.

The Smartinhaler range of products enables patients to track their adherence over time.

Nexus6 became the first firm in the space to obtain FDA approval for a product designed to tackle this problem by monitoring  and optimizing adherence. Its Smartinhaler platform offers real-time tracking of medication use and provides patients with audio-visual queues to prevent missing doses. Clinical trials have indicated that the technology can yield a two- to three-fold increase in adherence. The technology also keeps track of how many drug doses are left in the inhaler, informing patients when it is near empty. The platform also offers remote monitoring capabilities, enabling clinicians to monitor patients' drug adherence. Clinicians can plan a treatment protocol and then use the Smartinhaler platform to chart their patients' adherence to the plan. The platform uses GPS technology to monitor the location of emergency medication use and determine where common ashtma and COPD problems occur.

The technology, because it can be integrated with existing inhaler technologies, can be used with an array of medication delivery systems such as nebulizers, metered dose inhalers, and dry-powder inhalers.

The company has tested the accuracy of its Smartinhaler product line in 30 clinical programs.

Brian Buntz is the editor-in-chief of MPMN and Qmed. Follow him on Twitter at @brian_buntz

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