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Smart inhalers study ‘could prevent asthma deaths’

New smart inhalers being trialled in Leicester could reduce asthma deaths and hospitalisations, a doctor has said.

Dr Erol Gaillard has been leading a study into the benefits of the Hailie Smart Inhaler device, which monitors use and technique of preventative steroid inhalers.

The data is then fed into a smartphone app, which can be used by doctors to see how often a patient is using their inhaler.

Norah, 10, from Western Park in Leicester, said she has been less breathless since starting to use a smart inhaler in Feburary.

Dr Erol Gaillard
Dr Erol Gaillard works for the University of Leicester’s Department of Respiratory Sciences and University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust.

Dr Gaillard said the study was “on track” to find 300 children aged five to 16 to trial the device by the end of 2024.

The Hailie device fixes on to a regular inhaler and offers audible reminders to use it, as well as providing feedback to the child and family via a smartphone app.

App on phone
Data showing inhaler use is sent to an app

Dr Gaillard said: “We know that many people forget to take their [asthma] medication regularly and that is a major problem, because it means the disease is no longer controlled.

“As a doctor, if a patient comes to see you and their asthma isn’t controlled you don’t know whether you’re not prescribing enough medication or whether simply the patient occasionally forgets to use their medication.”

Dr Gaillard said if the technology could be refined and rolled out widely across the NHS, he thinks “it will have a big impact on asthma control, asthma attacks and even asthma deaths”.

He added: “Deaths are often caused by patients not taking their preventer steroid medication and over-using their blue rescue inhaler, so therefore if we can track patients use of the correct medication, I think this could prevent asthma deaths and hospitalisations.”

Norah with her parents Hayley and Rob
Norah said she was pleased with the device

Norah has struggled with asthma since she was diagnosed aged five.

She said: “Ever since I’ve had it, I’ve stopped using my blue [rescue inhaler] as much.

“It’s really good. I think it’s really helping me with remembering to take it.”

Her mum, Hayley, said was “really pleased” that Norah was on the trial “to help her while also benefitting other children”.

She added: “Norah is such a sporty little girl, who is so full of life. I never want asthma to hold her back.” –