What’s in store for complex oral inhalation drugs

The delivery of complex and novel oral inhalation drugs is currently undergoing huge shifts. Interest in inhalation drugs has long been of keen interest to drug developers, but commercially unsuccessful early projects have dampened their development and investment, until now. 

Advances in inhaler design and our increased understanding of lung physiology continue to make oral inhalation of complex drugs an attractive therapeutic option.

Pulmozyme sales rose by $540,800,000 US in 2016, showing that it is possible for inhaled proteins to generate revenue. A new creation of precision inhalers now allows for exact dosing and delivery of complex drugs, reducing the scope for patient error and boosting user safety. 

Today, new orally inhaled complex drugs are in development across both biopharmaceuticals with local or systemic targets, and small molecules intended for systemic use. 

These orally inhaled drugs can target the airways or deliver treatment to the heart, brain, or systemic circulation via the lungs, making it a more effective method of delivering molecules than those with difficult oral pharmacokinetics and/or extensive liver first-pass metabolism. These include drugs that target the central and peripheral airways to treat diseases such as asthma, COPD and RSV, others that target delivery to the brain, heart, and systemic insulin delivery drugs to treat diabetes. 

With many of these drugs developed with a newer liquid formulation approach, they might involve lower manufacturing costs and lower proportion of drug losses than dry powders, helping to reduce the overall cost of goods.

In an article with Pharmacology, Wilbur de Kruif and Carsten Ehrhardt discuss the latest advances in inhalation technology for the delivery of complex drugs, and what the future might look like for orally inhaled complex drugs. 

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