We’re living in an ever more virtual world. The rate of adoption and adaptation of technologies enabling remote connections and interactions has surpassed even the most optimistic predictions. An example of this is the annual Drug Delivery to the Lungs (DDL) conference, hosted by The Aerosol Society, that my colleagues and I attended last week. Usually held in Edinburgh, this year it was a virtual event. With the content available as a live stream and on demand and virtual booths providing instant access to downloadable material, this approach facilitated a wider reach and more flexibility for attendees seeking to learn about advances in the industry.
The first day highlighted the move to more sustainable lifecycles of products and how this must be balanced with effective drug delivery. With 630 million pressurised metered-dose inhalers (pMDIs) being produced each year and low rates of recycling, even small changes could have a big impact; whether by moving towards biobased polyolefin materials, inclusion of foaming agents to reduce the mass of plastic, or changes to another dosage form. This mirrors the trends that CDP has seen from our clients and the complex nature of plastic sustainability, discussed here by my colleague Dan. It was great to see the different approaches and how we are tackling this as an industry, making many small improvements that can add up to a significant change.
The second day went deep into specific formulations for targeted therapies. It’s always great to hear so many passionate scientists talk about their work and the benefit that it can have for patients. The biggest insight for me is how a deep and seemingly narrow investigation into a specific area can provide inspiration for unrelated therapies; the pharmacodynamic challenges of formulating an inhaled form of a parenterally administered product, engineering of particle sizes through spray drying, and the visualisation of drug particle distribution. Working across different sectors, this is the approach taken by CDP’s science team in projects such as determining the factors influencing vapour droplet size and technology scouting for novel delivery therapies. I was particularly excited to hear how advances in X-ray microscopy (XRM) are enabling the visualisation of active pharmaceutical ingredient distribution in pharmaceutical blends, giving real-life validation to predictive models of distribution and behaviour.
During the final day, the focus shifted to advances in delivery devices and challenges to the limits of their operation. Despite being widely used for over 60 years, studies show that over 70% of MDI users do not use the device as intended – so clearly there’s room for improvement. Whether the resolution is an adaption of the current MDI devices or switching to dry powder inhalers (DPIs) remains to be seen. With a step change in technology adoption this year, there is certainly a place for digital and connected solutions but as the final discussion group highlighted, in order to provide value from the digital advances the underlying technology needs to be robust.
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Consultant Drug Delivery Devices Scientist
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