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Respiratory system agents

First reusable, propellant-free inhaler launched to cut plastic waste

The first reusable, propellant-free inhaler is now available for patients with asthma and COPD, in line with NHS plans to reduce its carbon footprint and plastic waste.

The inhaler can be used with up to six refill cartridges that are replaced each time the medicine runs out, rather than patients being given six disposable inhalers each containing one cartridge.

According to Boehringer Ingelheim, which manufactures the Respimat inhaler, the reusability of the inhaler reduces its carbon footprint by 71% and should mean that up to 1.2 million fewer inhalers could be disposed of each year in the UK. 

“Reusing the Respimat inhalers is an important step towards being more responsible over our use of plastics within respiratory medicine,” said Anna Murphy, consultant respiratory pharmacist at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust.

“Community pharmacists see respiratory patients regularly, so we have a vital role to play in … helping patients understand the change to a reusable Respimat inhaler, reminding them not to throw it away each time it runs out and explaining that they can reuse the inhaler with six refills.”

The ‘NHS long-term plan’ sets out aspirations to deliver the Climate Change Act target of a reduction in the health service’s carbon footprint of 34% by 2020 and 51% by 2025, and states that a shift to lower carbon inhalers will deliver a total reduction of 4%.

In April 2019, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence published a new patient decision aid to help patients choose the best asthma inhaler for both them and the environment.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2019.20207067

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