New asthma technology helps in child compliance, New Zealand study finds

SmartTrack technology reduces risk of coughing, wheezing and asthma attack

A new technology that encourages children to take their asthma medications has been hailed by experts as a breakthrough device, after a study showed that they were 180% more likely to comply with drug regimes if they used the Smartinhaler device.

Called the SmartTrack, the device was developed by Auckland, New Zealand-based respiratory technology company Nexus6. It includes an audio visual reminder function and has been trialled on 220 New Zealand children aged 6–15, in what is believed to be the largest global study of medication adherence using audio visual reminder technology.

Researchers from Cure Kids, the Health Research Council and the University of Auckland, found that those children who had audio reminders turned on were 180% more likely to take prescribed medications than those in the control group, and had a 45% reduction in rescue medication use.

Cure Kids Chairman of Child Health Research, Professor Ed Mitchell, said children using the audio visual reminders had an overall medication of adherence of 84% with their prescribed medications, compared with just 30% in those who did not have this additional reminder. Also, only 9.5% of children using the audio visual reminder required interventionist ‘rescue’ medication to alleviate symptoms, compared with 17.4% in the control group.

This important study shows that new technology like the SmartTrack device can substantially improve symptom control

Mitchell said the device provided a great opportunity to improve quality of life for young asthma sufferers, with widespread evidence acknowledging that adherence to chronic medication regimes is often poor.

'Doctors can only guess at how often an inhaler has been used or not, and how much a patient’s symptoms are a feature of the disease or due to deficient use of the prescribed medications,' he said. 'We know that medication adherence dramatically reduces the risk of attack.

'This important study shows that new technology like the SmartTrack device can substantially improve symptom control, well-being and overall quality of life.'

Children enrolled in the study were also provided with a Smartinhaler device for tracking their rescue medication usage. This provided researchers with information about how frequently the asthma was out of control – with recent studies demonstrating that overuse of the rescue or ‘blue’ inhaler is a predictor of worsening asthma and general morbidity.

The Smartinhaler products are the brainchild of asthmatic Garth Sutherland, who founded Nexus6 12 years ago with the aim of developing a device that could automatically track his own medication use to improve his condition.

SmartTrack technology works by fitting a sensor over a standard inhaler. It has 14 different ringtones, alerting users only when they miss a dose. Nexus6 had no role in the trial beyond designing and supplying SmartTrack devices and reporting software.