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Breathe Easier: Raleigh Firm's New Inhaler Designed To Improve Drug Delivery Hits Market

Posted June 15, 2006

— Millions of asthma, chronic bronchitis and emphysema sufferers can now begin ordering a Raleigh-based firm's new breath-activated devices for inhalers that are designed to improve drug delivery.

The devices called

MD Turbo

include proprietary technology that helps coordinate breathing of the patient and the delivery of the drug contained in the inhaler. MD Turbo is now available through prescriptions, according to

Respirics

.

While pressurized metered dose inhalers have been around for 50 years, millions of users either don't use them properly or have difficulty in coordinating inhalation with release of the drug. Also, it is difficult to know how much medication is left in an inhaler.

"What percentage of patients who don't use inhalers properly depends on what studies you look at, but the percentages range from 14 percent to 96 percent," said William Nadel, director of market development for Respirics. "Improper use ranges from people not taking the cap off to not shaking it, which they are supposed to do every time.

"The key market we are looking at is patients who fail to coordinate the actuation of the device with the breath in. If they don't coordinate, all they are doing essentially is spraying the drug into their mouth and swallowing it. The drug goes to the stomach rather than the lungs. Seventeen to 68 percent of users show a lack of coordination."

Asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD) such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema are the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, killing 120,000 people in 2002, according to the American Lung Association. More than 10 million people suffer from COPD. Another 20 million suffer with asthma, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

MD Turbo utilizes i-Point, Respirics' inhalation technology that releases the medication when the patient breathes at a predetermined flow rate.

Adam Walsh, an analyst with the Wall Street firm Jeffries and Company, calls the MD Turbo a "breakthrough delivery tool" and forecasts sales of $75-80 million annually. More than 30 million inhalers are sold a year in the U.S., according to Respirics.

The new devices are expected to cost between $75 and $80 each, but the final price may be as low as $9 through medical insurance reimbursements, according to Nadel.

"The big questions people ask about a new product are what does it cost and is it covered by insurance," Nadel said. "The latest information I have is that approximately 90 million people with insurance have coverage for MD Turbo one way or another and that number will grow as time goes on."

The devices are manufactured in China.

Triangle-based TEAMM Pharmaceuticals will market MD Turbo.

Many doctors are ready to prescribe use of the device, Nadel said.

"We've gotten very positive feedback on the device," he explained. "A lot of physicians have also been very enthusiastic about the electronic dose counter, allowing patients to know how many puffs are left.

"There is nothing worse and potentially dangerous than a patient who tries to use an empty inhaler when they are having an asthma attack," Nadel added. "Plus, patients can better educate their physicians about how often they use their inhaler." The Food and Drug Administration recently approved the MD Turbo, which is Respirics' first product. The company is also developing a dry-power inhaler.

Respirics engineers designed MD Turbo. The company was launched in 2001 and has seven employees. Privately held, Respirics closed on some $3 million in funding last year, according to Nadel.

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