A new study by Propeller Health, a digital therapeutics company, has found that the vast majority of people living with asthma may be using their inhalers incorrectly.

Carried out in partnership with the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado, the researchers collected data from 7,558 patients using the company’s digital medicine in real life setting.

The study report says that 84% of asthma patients use their inhalers incorrectly, which makes asthma treatments less effective and increases their risk of asthma attacks.

“Patients aged 4-11 years were observed to have the highest level of acceptable timing, with 18-29-year-olds having the lowest.”

Most medicines for asthma require the patients to take two puffs of their inhaler to get the prescribed dose.

Asthma guidelines and patient instructions recommend complete exhalation prior to inhaling, followed by slow and deep inhalation of the medication, holding of breath for up to ten seconds and then waiting prior to their next inhalation.

Adherence to these steps allows the medicines to reach the correct respiratory parts and thereby maximise their effectiveness.

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Ideally, all these steps should take between 30 and 60 seconds. However, researchers found that 84% of the people took less than 30 seconds between the first and second puff of their inhaler, while 67% waited less than 15 seconds between puffs.

Only 16% of patients waited more than 30 seconds between inhalations, the minimum time needed to complete the recommended steps.

Patients aged 4-11 years were observed to have the highest level of acceptable timing, with 18-29-year-olds having the lowest.

Propeller Health Medical and Clinical Affairs senior vice-president David Stempel said: “Doctors have known for years that many patients do not follow the recommended inhaler instructions. This is the first time we’ve had objective data from digital medicines to observe it outside of the clinic.”

The company’s digital medicine involves the linking of a sensor to the patient’s inhaler. This sensor monitors medication usage and provides the patients with insights such as medication adherence reminders and tips for management of their condition.

Stempel added: “Digital medicines have the potential to not only assess inhaler technique in real-time but also notify a patient when they’re not using the inhaler properly and provide education and sources for training, which goes beyond what a clinician can do for the patient day-to-day.”

Data from the study has been published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Earlier this week, an international comaprative study found that the UK has the highest death rate from asthma in Europe across three age groups; ten to 14, 15 to 19 and 20 to 24. This figure is said to be around twice as high as the next worse country in Europe, Ireland.

Additional reporting by Charlotte Edwards.