Boehringer Ingelheim taps Qualcomm Life for future connected COPD inhaler

By Jonah Comstock
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Qualcomm Life and Boehringer Ingelheim have announced that they will work together to develop the next generation of Boehringer's Respimat connected inhaler. Propeller Health, which developed the original connected inhaler for Boehringer, will continue to work with Boehringer to at least market the existing version of the device. 

"The overall goal for Boehringer Ingelheim is to create health solutions that help improve patient outcomes and expand our understanding of COPD," a Boehringer Ingelheim spokesperson told MobiHealthNews in an email. "As part of that, the goal of this new collaboration with Qualcomm Life is to help improve adherence to daily medicines that treat symptoms of COPD. Poor adherence to treatment plans is common among people with COPD and can result in increased rates of COPD symptoms, health care costs, hospitalizations and even death."

According to a statement from the companies, Qualcomm Life will develop the prototype for a small, wireless, low-power, disposable sensor module for the Respimat inhaler, designed to automatically connect with Qualcomm Life's 2net Platform, in order to send usage data from the inhaler to the patient or their healthcare provider.

"Qualcomm Life is committed to powering the Internet of Medical Things to ultimately enable intelligent care to be delivered wherever the patient may be," Qualcomm Life president Rick Valencia said in a statement. "We are excited to be collaborating with an industry leader like Boehringer Ingelheim to deliver a more seamless digital health experience that can enable their COPD patients to better manage their disease."

Propeller CEO David Van Sickle told MobiHealthNews in an interview that his company was still working with Boehringer Ingelheim to roll out the current generation of the Respimat connected inhaler, but wasn't involved in BI's partnership with Qualcomm Life. Boehringer was the first pharma company to work with Propeller, which now works with GlaxoSmithKline and Aptar Pharma as well. Van Sickle said it was exciting to see the connected inhaler space succeed and expand after putting in so much early work to get it established.

"The collaboration with Qualcomm will focus on developing a prototype for sensor technology within the Respimat device," Boehringer Ingelheim's spokesperson said in a statement emailed to MobiHealthNews. "While this new technology will not be available for the next few years, once it is, it will enhance the healthcare solution we are committed to providing through Propeller Health. We remain committed to enrolling patients into the current Propeller Health program, which is designed to determine how the technology impacts adherence rates and patient engagement. We hope our work with Propeller will set the stage for this latest technology in the years to come."

Boehringer Ingelheim won't be Qualcomm Life's only connected inhaler partner: In January, the company announced that it would work with Novartis to develop a connected version of its inhaler, Breezhaler, for people who have COPD. Novartis expects the Breezhaler to launch in 2019 after it undergoes manufacturing, testing, and regulatory approvals.