By Ingrid Blair
Vice President, Business and Marketing
3M Drug Delivery Systems Division
We’re constantly told that the face of health care is changing, but what exactly does that changing face look like and what does it mean for the future? As the population ages, that face probably has a few more lines and wrinkles, but it’s also a wiser and more inquisitive face when it comes to health matters. ‘Take two aspirin and call me in the morning’ isn’t going to cut it for this face. And when we are talking about serious diseases, such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), the faces of patients and their caregivers want to be as informed as possible.
Of course, it’s one thing to have the information; it’s an entirely different matter to put that information into action to achieve optimal results. That’s where health care providers and industry can come together – uniting technological advancement with improved communications to overcome obstacles to effective treatment.
At 3M, we apply science in collaborative ways to overcome such obstacles – developing new solutions that create healthier populations. One recent project we’ve been working on is treating the unmet needs in the respiratory drug delivery market to improve quality of life for those affected with COPD.
For the 65 million people worldwide1 who are affected by this disease, it is absolutely imperative to consistently receive the right amount of medication into the correct location of a patient’s respiratory system, which could allow them to live full and productive lives.
However, recent studies have shown that traditional devices have failed to improve patient competence and adherence, leading to an increase in complications. One study has shown that approximately 76% of pressurized Metered Dose Inhaler users make at least one mistake each time they use their device.2 These mistakes range from angling the mouthpieces the wrong way, to inhaling too much of the product, to not holding their breath long enough. Similarly, approximately 94% of Dry Powder Inhaler users make critical usage errors.3 Another study has shown that around 60% of COPD patients do not adhere to their prescribed therapy.4 Additionally, only 25% of patients use their medications every day as prescribed.5
This research has made it clear that patients are struggling with current options in COPD treatment. Thankfully, through the application of innovative technologies to inhalation devices, developers have been able to engineer “intelligent” inhalers to improve patient competence and adherence. For example, 3M’s new Intelligent Control Inhaler helps improve competence by controlling the inspiratory flow rate, so that variations in breath inhalation strength do not affect dosages; additionally, it incorporates step by step on-screen instructions, to help patients use the inhaler more effectively.
As for adherence, the device will ‘connect’ with a mobile app providing real-time data for patients and doctors about device usage as well as long-term trends in inhalation breath profiles. Patients will know when they took a dose and they’ll know if they took the correct amount. No more situations where a patient gets distracted and then forgets if they were just about to take a dose or if they just got done taking one!
From the perspective of the health care provider, communications are greatly improved as they don’t need to rely on the patient’s memory or inexact descriptions to explain how their treatment has been going. Reception of real-time data will allow for treatment plan modifications that lead to healthier outcomes.
While millions of patients continue to struggle with diseases such as COPD, there is hope that new “intelligent” devices will improve patient competence and adherence through technological advancements, while real-time data sharing builds more trusted relationships between patients and their healthcare providers. The face of health care might be continually changing, but with innovative solutions in drug delivery on the horizon, that face is beginning to show a bit of a smile.
Ingrid Blair is the Vice President for Business & Marketing of 3M’s Drug Delivery Systems Division, a recognized world leader in business and innovation. In this role, Ingrid has global responsibility for leading business strategy, marketing, and operations for the development and supply of complex drug delivery systems solutions for global pharmaceutical customers. Related products are developed to meet a variety of patient needs within inhalation, transdermal, microneedle and digital health segments.
Ingrid has spent 29 years at 3M in positions of increasing responsibility in technology development, laboratory management, and global business leadership. She is a Certified Design for Six Sigma Master Black. She is currently a member of the Inclusion Steering Committee at 3M. An engineer by training, Ingrid has a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Minnesota.