Magazine article Drug Topics

In the Air

Magazine article Drug Topics

In the Air

Article excerpt

Asthmatics gain new, environmentally friendly inhaler from 3M Pharmaceuticals

3M Pharmaceuticals has developed an ozone-safe inhaler, dubbed QVAR. In so doing, it has also managed to design a betterabsorbed and lower-dose medication compared with other inhalers on the market. Decreased particle size allows for penetration of the drug, in this case beclomethasone dipropionate (BDP), into smaller airways in the lungs.

"Both the large and small airways in the lungs play an important role in asthma, but current inhalers fail to deliver medication to the smallest airways," said Sally Wenzel, M.D., director-clinical research in medicine, National Jewish Medical & Research Center, Denver. "This new drug represents a potential breakthrough for asthma patients."

The new inhaler uses hydrofluoroalkane (HFA) as a propellant, and the manufacturer claims that it is the first corticosteroid metered-dose inhaler without the propellant chlorofluorocarbon (CFC). Approved in September, the product will be the first CFC-free BDP inhaler on the market. One other CFC-free inhaler, an albuterol preparation (Proventil, Schering), has already been approved.

Dennis McCallian, Pharm.D., of Family PharmaCare, West Lafayette, Ind., thinks these new inhalers are the first of many conversions to CFC-free products. "At some point in time, I think Congress wants us to have that out of every product," he said.

Although the new propellant is partially responsible for the smaller particle size of QVAR, Jennifer Vanden Burgt, of 3M, explained that other factors also helped reduce particle size. Researchers at 3M have reengineered the entire inhaler apparatus, including the valve. Also, QVAR is a solution aerosol, while currently available BDP inhalers are suspension aerosols. With these innovations, 50% of the BDP in QVAR reaches the lungs. "That's significantly greater than conventional products," said Vanden Burgt, who was clinical development leader for the QVAR project at 3M.

"One of the problems with beclomethasone originally was it took huge doses," said McCallian. He pointed out that some patients required three to four puffs of CFCBDP several times a day in order to achieve asthma control.

When QVAR was compared with placebo in clinical trials, asthma patients responded predictably well to QVAR, as well as to a CFC-containing BDP inhaler (CFC-BDP). …

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