Adherium Aims to Improve Asthma Patient Outcomes with Smart Inhalers

Asthma is the third-ranking cause of hospitalization for children under 15 years of age in the U.S., and it’s the leading cause of missed school among children ages 5 to 17. Missed school can lead to missed work and lost income if parents need to stay home to care for their sick kids, potentially leading to negative outcomes for the whole family.

A New Zealand company called Adherium, with headquarters in Silicon Valley and a CEO based in Ann Arbor, MI, is on a mission to decrease the chances that asthma in children or adults will cause negative outcomes. The key, says CEO Arik Anderson, is treatment plan adherence driven by the company’s smart inhalers.

Called Hailie, the inhalers are equipped with sensors and linked to a mobile app that allows users to set medication reminders, automatically track medicine usage, and share data with their doctors. Anderson says the sensor discreetly wraps around the inhaler so patients ‘’don’t have to think about it,’’ and beeps or vibrates when it’s time to take a dose.

“We didn’t want it to be more cumbersome than the inhaler itself,” Anderson continues. “You can track that the medicine is used in the right way—did you shake it, is it the right orientation—as well as the date and time it was used.”

Parents can monitor their children’s health through the system’s dashboard, he adds.

The patient’s compliance data is stored on the patient’s inhaler until the inhaler is in range of their smartphone. The data is then transmitted wirelessly to the phone as well as the cloud, where doctors can access it and help manage adherence remotely.

“If a kid is in school and it’s time to use the inhaler in the middle of class, he might wait until after class to use it and then forget, so the dose gets missed,” Anderson explains. “If that happens a few times in succession, breathing can be compromised and your only recourse is to reach for rescue meds—now you’re in the hospital. We’re looking to prevent that.”

Anderson says the company’s technology has been tested in more than 60 clinical or device validation projects and found to increase adherence in children by 180 percent, and in adults by 59 percent. It has also received regulatory clearance in Europe and the United States. In October, Adherium announced it would be part of the SmartAirLA program to help communities in the Los Angeles area use technology to reduce the effects and prevalence of asthma.

Adherium, which is publicly traded on the Australian stock market, was established in 2001. Anderson came to the company a few years ago after a stint at Terumo, where he says he helped the company address FDA product restrictions. “That was one of the most challenging experiences of my career,” he says.

Anderson landed at Adherium after a colleague told him the company was looking for a new CEO to help commercialize its inhalers in the United States. After the FDA cleared Hailie for over-the-counter use in June, Adherium started selling inhalers directly to consumers from its website.

The company has competitors, including Madison, WI-based Propeller Health, which has just agreed to be acquired for $225 million by San Diego-based medical device maker ResMed (NYSE: RMD). But Anderson says Adherium makes the only smart inhaler compatible with AstraZeneca’s Symbicort, a medication he says is taken by one-third of U.S. asthma patients.

The 75-person company plans to spend the upcoming year pursuing commercial agreements in the United States, and working with companies such as GM to provide Hailie inhalers to employees as part of their health insurance package.

“As an employee’s quality of life increases, their absenteeism decreases,” he says. “That could mean a whole series of benefits to a company like GM.”

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