i-Nhaler i-Mprovement?

Asthma is one of the world’s most common chronic diseases, affecting some 300 million people and almost 5 percent of the world’s population. It’s also the 5th most costly condition in the US  – an estimated at $56 billion annually. But as we’ve reported here previously, a significant number of people with asthma either don’t use their asthma medications or use them incorrectly.

Improving asthma control is known to reduce the cost of treating asthma by eliminating unnecessary hospitalizations, ED visits, and office visits. The additional cost of an uncontrolled asthma patient compared to a controlled asthma patient is estimated at $3,000-$4,000  per patient annually.

So, we were interested to learn last week that the FDA approved a sensorized asthma inhaler that can track usage and transmit the data to a smartphone and the web. The manufacturer – Asthmapolis will begin to market the asthma sensor and both English and Spanish language versions of the companion software in the US very soon.

Our mission is to make it easier for patients and their physicians to do a better job of managing asthma with less effort than traditionally required.” said David Van Sickle, co-founder and CEO of Asthmapolis.

The small and lightweight device attaches to the end of most inhalers, and the app tracks the time and location of each medication discharge and reminds patients to use it if they forget.

In clinical studies of the Asthmapolis system, uncontrolled asthma declined by 50%, and more than 70% of patients improved their level of control.  In addition it can identify trends in a patients asthma triggers and symptoms over time and provide patients with personalized education on how to improve their asthma.

Not only will the device talk directly to the patients, physicians and other health care providers will be able to identify, in near-real-time, patients with uncontrolled disease and attend to them before they suffer a severe exacerbation.

Despite all we know about asthma and how to treat it, the majority of patients still do not have the disease under control, and traditional approaches to self-management have been time-consuming and complicated,” said Inger Couture, chief regulatory officer of Asthmapolis. “The Asthmapolis technology makes it much easier to track symptoms and use of metered dose inhalers, allowing patients, their families and their doctors to gain a valuable new perspective on the disease.”

And that can only be a good thing.

Treating asthma leads to better diabetic control

At first glance asthma and diabetes would seem to have very little in common, other than they are both diseases that often appear in childhood.

However, a new study published in the journal Pediatrics shows a new link.  Researchers have found that kids with diabetes may have a higher-than-average rate of asthma, and those with both conditions seem to have a tougher time keeping their blood sugar under control.

Among 2,000 3- to 21-year-olds with diabetes, 11% had asthma – higher than the expected 9% rate among children and young adults in the U.S.

The difference was even bigger when the researchers looked at type 2 diabetes, the form associated with obesity, and usually diagnosed in adults. In that group, 16% had asthma.

Researchers also showed that kids with both type 1 diabetes and asthma were more likely to have poor blood sugar control than their peers who were asthma-free.

The reasons for the findings are not completely clear.  However, the higher rate of asthma among young people with type 2 diabetes suggests a role for obesity, according to lead researcher Mary Helen Black, of the department of research and evaluation at Kaiser Permanente Southern California.

Some past research has found that people with poorly controlled diabetes are more likely to show diminished lung function over time than those with well-controlled diabetes. But the reasons for that are also unknown.

Black suggests the reason may simply be that it’s tougher for kids with type 1 diabetes to control their blood sugar when they have another chronic health problem.

The good news is that when kids with both diseases were on asthma medication, their blood sugar control was better. In particular, poor blood sugar control was seen in less than 5% of those taking leukotriene modifiers such as Singulair, Accolate and Zyflo; compared with about 30% of type 1 diabetics who were not on medication for their asthma.

The researchers are not sure if that means there’s an effect of the asthma drugs themselves. It may just be that kids with better-controlled asthma are also more likely to have well-controlled diabetes.

The bottom line for doctors and parents is to be aware that kids with diabetes may have a somewhat higher rate of asthma – and that those with both may have more trouble with blood sugar control.

Do you or your child suffer from both conditions?  Does this research support your experience?  As always we’d love to hear from you.