a woman uses a digital inhaler and checks her phone for charts of her usage

Inhalers and Their Proper Use

Too often, I seem to read about “inhaler abuse.”

A recent study cited in the Journal of General Internal Medicine stated, “Inhaled corticosteroid (ICS) use among patients with COPD increases the risk of pneumonia and other complications. However, the use of ICS among patients with COPD is common and may be occurring both among those with mild disease (overuse) and those misdiagnosed with COPD (misuse).”1

The study found that “... older age...white race and more primary care visits... were associated with an increased likelihood of potentially inappropriate use.”1

That was why it was so encouraging to read that the daily use of inhaler medication by Americans with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) has increased during the coronavirus pandemic - but in a very good way.

It was very good news

When I first read the headline in HealthDay News, “Inhaler Use Up During Coronavirus Pandemic,” I thought, “Oh boy. Here we go again.”2

But I was dead wrong. It was very good news.

Now, this is not a recommendation for any product but, Propeller Health sponsored the study because it is relatively easy for that company to produce data like this as a result of the growing use of the “Propeller.”

Propeller Health uses electronic medication monitors to track inhaler use and alerts patients about missed doses with built-in sensors.

“Propeller tracks medication use and sends dose reminders, symptom insights, and progress reports to the patient and their provider, helping the patient stay adherent, gain insight into exacerbations and communicate with their clinician.”3

Data analysis

Researchers at Propeller Health analyzed inhaler use data by nearly 7,600 patients with COPD and with asthma and found that between the first seven days of January 2020 and the last seven days of March, more than 53% of patients had 75% or greater daily controller medication adherence.3

"We are encouraged by the increase in patient adherence to their medications for asthma and COPD, which is critical to avoiding symptoms and keeping patients out of the hospital during this pandemic," said first author Leanne Kaye, a senior research manager at Propeller Health at the time of the study.4

Digital health tools can be helpful

By the end of the study, an increase in the proper use of inhalers was seen in older patients showing an overall higher adherence at the start of the study period. There were no significant differences in improved medication use between COPD and asthma patients.

"This research further supports that digital health tools can improve adherence and provide insight into patient well-being between office visits," Kaye said.1

Essential medications

Some seem to think that COVID-19 may have something to do with improving the use of inhaler medication because of pandemic guidelines about medication use in general. As you must know, those of us with COPD have a big incentive in keeping our respiratory diseases under control during the pandemic. Daily controller medications are essential for patients with asthma, COPD and other chronic respiratory conditions, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, the study authors noted.

Controlling these respiratory diseases with proper medication use can improve outcomes and reduce problems that require medical care, which could inadvertently expose a patient to COVID-19, they explained.3

So let’s try to use what our doctors have prescribed for us in proper doses and at proper times. And let’s hope that we can see light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The COPD.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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