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Dry Powder Inhalers

February 8th, 2016  |  The Blog

Inhalers are used to treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), bronchitis, emphysema and asthma.

Types of Inhalers Explained

Dry powder inhalers or DPIs are breath activated medications that stay in an inhaler until a patient’s inhalation releases and activates the medication. DPIs are different from pressure metered-dose inhalers or MDIs because they do not need hand-breath coordination. Since some patients have trouble with the hand-breath coordination, DPIs are a good treatment choice.

There are differences between the medication delivery with DPIs and MPIs. They include the following:

  • DPIs offer quick and forceful medication delivery; MPIs are inhaled more slowly
  • DPIs medication particles are powdered; MPIs medication is wet
  • Most DPI and MPIs are multi-dose so have a dose indicator on them; Arcata Neoinhaler, Spirit HandiHaler and Foradil Aerolizer are exceptions because they are single-dose inhalers with separate medication capsules

Dry Powder Inhalers

Most DPIs require the patient to push a button, twist the device, load a separately packaged capsule or slide a lever down to release the medication. This requires coordination and, sometimes, some extra help from a caregiver.

There are new DPIs on the market that load the medication doses automatically, once the inhaler cap is opened.

There is a new albuterol DPI, ProAir RepiClick, which loads the medication when the cap is opened. Ellipta, used to treat COPD, is another automatically loading inhaler that is new to the market.

Inhaler Use and Care

There are a few important guidelines to using a dry powder inhaler:

  • Never swallow a separate medication capsule that is intended for inhaler use
  • Do not use a spacer with a DPI
  • Do not shake a dry powder inhaler
  • Fully exhale before before placing the DPI in the mouth; do not breath into the DPI
  • Rinse mouth after using any inhaler
  • All inhalers do not have a taste when inhaled; dosing occurs without a taste so follow the dose counter carefully
  • DPIs should not get wet. Patients should wipe the mouthpiece regularly with a clean, dry cloth

How to use an inhaler:

  • Follow device instructions to load medication
  • Sit or stand up straight
  • Exhale to fully empty lungs
  • Place mouthpiece in mouth and close lips tightly around it
  • Inhale quickly and forcefully
  • Remove DPI from mouth and hold breath for 5 to 10 seconds
  • Exhale slowly
  • Reload inhaler and repeat step, if second inhalation is ordered
  • Close device and store in a dry place

Final Thoughts

When using a DPI inhaler, it is important to follow the manufacturer and prescriber’s instructions for the most effective treatment.

There are many inhalers available on the market so it is also critical that patient’s keep a log about their symptoms and potential side effects so the prescriber can reevaluate the efficacy of a particular inhaler. There are plenty of options from which to choose and sometimes, adjustments need to be made and inhalers changed to accommodate a patient’s symptoms.

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