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Opportunities for inhaler device selection in elderly patients with asthma or COPD

Authors Barrons R, Wheeler J, Woods JA

Received 16 June 2015

Accepted for publication 25 September 2015

Published 4 December 2015 Volume 2015:7 Pages 53—65

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/PI.S61200

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Dr Johnny Chen


Robert Barrons,1 James Wheeler,2 J Andrew Woods1

1Wingate University School of Pharmacy, Wingate, NC, USA; 2University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Nashville, TN, USA


Abstract: An anticipated surge in the elderly population will be accompanied by a rise in aging patients with asthma or COPD. Clinician selection of inhalers needs to address the unique challenges to elderly patients. These challenges to the use of inhalers include diminished physical and cognitive abilities, as well as cost reimbursement issues associated with polypharmacy and the Medicare gap. Clinicians should consider patient preferences for an inhaler device that provides ease of administration, and addresses conveniences such as portability, visual, and auditory indicators of dosing completion. The addition of spacer devices resolves hand-breath coordination difficulty with pressurized metered dose inhalers, but reduces overall inhaler convenience. Soft mist inhalers (Respimat®) improve ease of administration, but use may be limited by cost and formulary availability. Multiple dose dry powder inhalers provide convenience and simplified use by requiring only one to two steps prior to administration, but concerns of peak inspiratory flow requirements remain among patients with advanced age and severity of COPD. If unaddressed, these challenges to inhaler selection contribute to inappropriate use of inhalers in 41% to 69% of patients, accompanied by at least 51% non-adherence to treatment. Clinicians must first avail themselves of reputable educational resources regarding new inhaler developments and administration, for competent patient instruction. Patient education should include a checklist of inhaler technique, with physical demonstration of each device by the patient and provider. Device demonstration significantly improves inhaler technique and identifies the need for nebulization therapy. Clinician and patient knowledge of available inhalers and their administration should initiate shared decision-making involving patient and provider medication preferences and choices. Patient education and shared decision-making should be longstanding and opportunistic, addressing failed inhaler adherence in the outpatient setting, and the contribution of inhaler non-adherence to hospital admissions and emergency department visits.

Keywords: elderly patients, asthma, COPD, non-adherence, patient education, inhaler

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