More MS news articles for Dec 2001

Inhaled Drugs to Make Life Easier for Patients

Company developing drugs that will diminish use of pills, shots,24195,3363994,00.html

By Marc Levenson, TechTV staff
December 7, 2001

If you're afraid of needles or often forget to take your pills, research from one California company may help you breathe a sigh of relief. Inhale Therapeutic Systems in San Carlos expects to develop inhalers that deliver drugs directly through the lungs.

Inhale CEO Robert Chess predicts a puff of powder may be enough to treat diabetes, multiple sclerosis, or kill infection.

"[It's] much simpler for people [than taking a pill or getting a shot], much easier to comply with, much more likely they're going to take their medications," Chess said.

The technology involves a blister packet that's inserted into an experimental plastic inhaler. A hand-operated trigger bursts open the packet and fills a transparent chamber with a dusty powder. The powder consists of special medicated grains made to drift into the lungs then travel through the blood.

Diabetics may breathe inhaled insulin this way by next year. But Inhale expects future inhalers for conditions from multiple sclerosis to those requiring antibiotics.

"If you're looking 10, 15, 20 years from now, outside of a hospital environment there's going to be a very little reason for people to take shots anymore," Chess said.

Drug inhalers for asthma have been around for 50 years, but they're not efficient for other conditions. Only a small amount of mist reaches the patient's lungs. Fortunately for asthmatics, that's all they need. But for diabetics and patients with multiple sclerosis, the precise dosage is critical.

Inhale chief scientist John Patton helped develop a manufacturing technique that makes grains fit just right and dissolve in just the right way.

"In some ways, it's a simple engineering accomplishment. [In others, there's] actually a lot more to it than that," Patton said.

Drug inhalers may help millions of Americans who forget to take their drugs or hate to swallow a pill.

"It's really a major healthcare issue," Chess said. "We think we're meeting an unmet need by making medicines that people are actually willing to take."

Some drugs, like those for strokes, may always go through more traditional medicines to reach the blood right away. But for everyday medications, tomorrow's inhaled drugs could turn into a breath of fresh air.

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