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Optimising inhaler technique

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Asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are conditions commonly seen in primary care that carry significant and often avoidable morbidity and mortality rates.1,2 Many of the drugs used to treat these conditions are delivered to the lungs in inhaled form and through a wide range of inhaler devices, so an appreciation of the value of good inhaler technique is essential for those managing the conditions.

This article considers the evidence for the impact of poor inhaler technique on respiratory disease outcomes and discusses how to improve inhaler technique in patients taking inhaled therapies.

Pathophysiology and aims of treatment

There are significant overlaps in the management of asthma and COPD in terms of the drugs and, to an extent, the devices used. However, not all devices are licensed for both conditions, so clinicians are required to understand the indications and suitability of treatments for each individual. In spite of the apparent overlap, it is important to recall that the two conditions are different and the aims of treatment differ.

Asthma is an inflammatory condition that is reversible through regular use of anti-inflammatory treatment, primarily in the form of inhaled corticosteroids.1 Minimal use of short-acting bronchodilators is a marker of well-controlled asthma.


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