Propeller Health, Aptar partner to create connected metered dose inhalers

By Jonah Comstock
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Propeller Health is partnering with Aptar Pharma, a drug delivery system company, to create what the company believes will be the first-to-market integrated, connected metered dose inhaler (MDI).

"Patients and physicians deserve better designed inhalers that are easier to use and help them successfully treat their chronic respiratory disease,” David Van Sickle, CEO of Propeller, said in a statement. “We are excited to work with Aptar to bring important digital innovation to respiratory drug delivery. We expect our connected inhaler to become the cornerstone for a platform of digital programs that will support and encourage better management of and quality of life with chronic respiratory disease. Together I believe we have the scale and expertise to impact millions of patients with asthma and COPD around the world." 

As Propeller Health COO Chris Hogg explained on a call with MobiHealthNews, the new offering, which is currently available for licensing and will enter into clinical trials later this year, will allow pharma and generic companies that work with Propeller and Aptar to create connected versions of any drug that's currently delivered via an MDI. Whereas Propeller has previously created add-on sensors that connect to existing inhalers, the Aptar offering will be an integrated device, with the sensors built into the inhaler.

"When a doctor goes to prescribe something, they’ll prescribe the connected version of this drug rather than the unconnected version," he said. "It’s very similar to an extended release version. So right now a doctor has the option of prescribing Welbutrin or Welbutrin XR, which is the extended release version. ... And so what would happen is the patient gets prescribed a drug, just like they do now, but when they pick it up at the pharmacy, this would be a connected version, and it plugs into the Propeller platform."

This connected version of the drug will automatically record usage data and make it available to patients and their healthcare providers in an app. The system will leverage apps, email, and text messages to improve medication adherence and patient engagement.

While a number of pharma companies and technology partners (or acquisitions) are working on some kind of connected inhaler or inhaler sensor, none is in the market and available to consumers yet. Van Sickle told MobiHealthNews in an email that Propeller "anticipate[s] our cMDI device will be the first connected inhaler to enter clinical studies and be submitted to FDA." 

Propeller chose to work with Aptar because it's already a leading manufacturer of MDIs for pharma companies, Van Sickle said.

"Aptar Pharma is the world-leading producer of metered-dose inhalers (MDIs), which are the most common type of medication inhaler used worldwide," he said. "Aptar Pharma works with pharma partners to develop and manufacture the physical inhaler devices (housings, valves, etc) for multiple brands. We at Propeller had long been aware of their work developing and industrializing innovative inhalers. As we got to know each other the companies became interested in collaboratively creating a digital drug delivery system."