Smart Inhaler Is About to Reach OTC Market

Smart Inhalers have been around for awhile, but have been consigned to use primarily in clinical trials. One company is bringing them to the OTC market.

I am a big fan of the smart inhaler movement. I mean, it's a natural fit for the digital health space to track adherence. Perform an actuation, have a sensor detect that actuation, and you know someone used it. Now, that doesn't mean they used it correctly, but that at least would be something to follow up on if, say, a patient is using a rescue inhaler more often.

COPD and asthma aren't going away anytime soon, and with a reliance on chronic pharmacological management, it's a potentially good market. There are only a few companies that have created devices, such as Propeller Health, and Adherium, which really have the lion's share of use. But outside of use by clinicians, it's not like patients can buy them directly... yet.

I know Propeller is aiming to get their sensors to more patients, but Adherium is taking a new approach by allowing direct purchase by consumers to use their sensors with their inhalers. The FDA just gave clearance to Adherium to sell their Symbicort aerosol asthma inhaler over-the-counter in the United States. Arik Anderson, CEO of Adherium said, "Over-the-counter sales of our Smartinhaler sensor for the Symbicort aerosol inhaler continues the advance of our vision for stronger partnerships between patients and physicians by making adherence to personal management plans easier... We are now well positioned to launch in the U.S., following successes in Europe and Australia. We are providing clinically-proven monitoring to support patients in adopting their physicians’ guidance into their daily lives, and so close the gap between science and real-world care."

Users of the smart inhaler will be able to track their use, by getting data uploaded to their smartphone or another smart device. This data can be shared with others, such as care providers, to help in providing objective data to make therapeutic decisions. I have no idea how much the sensor will cost, though there will likely be a subscription cost to use the product.

That being the case, some people may be scratching their head and asking, 'Why Symbicort? Why not a ProAir or Ventolin?' Well, looking at Adherium's history, it's easy to see that AstraZeneca (the maker of Symbicort) has been one the leading partners for Adherium. The other issue is that ProAir is made by Teva, which just so happens to have purchased Gecko Health back in 2015, another smart inhaler company. Now rebranded as CareTRx, it's not hard to see some competition arising in the future. I mean, while Adherium could market a smart inhaler for ProAir, I could also see Teva then turning around and packaging a sensor for a discounted price with their product, and getting preference by a patient. So Adherium needs to target a market they know they can secure for themselves at this time, and in my mind, it makes sense to go with their partner's products.

So does this mean we'll see other smart inhalers hit the OTC market? I actually think we will shortly. Letting Adherium get a significant market share wouldn't make sense for the longterm, and I can see patients being attracted to these products. One example would be parents with children who have asthma. By using these sensors, parents can monitor their chidlren's inhaler use, and make sure they are adherent.

Get ready to start seeing smart inhalers enter the market here shortly. I bet it's just the beginning.


Adherium Receives U.S. 510(k) Clearance for Over-the-Counter Sales of its Smartinhaler™ Sensor [news release] Adherium, San Mateo, CA; March 27, 2018. Accessed April 13, 2018.

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