The news is full of ‘promising’ developments that may ‘one day’ lead to a brighter, healthier future. But for our annual AARP focuses on 'game-changing' medical breakthroughs in vision, heart health and more survey of the latest medical breakthroughs, we decided to focus on game changers that are improving lives today. Each of these astounding new technologies and treatments is available, or will be in the near future, to make your life, and the lives of millions of other Americans, better.
Lisa Hall has landed in the emergency room at least once a year since childhood, gasping for breath with flare-ups of severe asthma and, more recently, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). “When you can’t breathe, it’s like a snake squeezing your chest,” she says.
Last year she began snapping bottle-cap-sized Bluetooth sensors from Propeller Health onto her medication inhalers and was shocked to discover that she wasn’t using some of her drugs correctly. “I wasn’t waiting 15 minutes between two medications for COPD,” says Hall, 53, a grandmother of six from Sauk Centre, Minnesota. “Or I wouldn’t use my inhaler if I couldn’t remember whether I already had.” Now she no longer worries about forgetting doses, because a smartphone app linked to the sensors keeps track for her.
At first, Hall admits, she thought the sensors might be “just a gimmick.” But she has not needed to visit the emergency room even once since she started using the app to monitor her health, she says.
Generic Inhaler Drug Combo for Asthma and COPD Approved
In March 2022, the FDA approved the first generic-version metered-dose inhaler of the widely prescribed two-drug combo Symbicort, a move expected to make it more affordable. The drug, called Breyna, helps by reducing inflammation and relaxing airways. Its maker, Viatris, is hoping to launch the drug soon, possibly as early as later this year.
Propeller Health’s FDA-cleared sensors join a wave of digital inhaler technology available for people with asthma — which affects about 8 percent of midlife and older adults — and COPD, which impacts the lives of 6 to 11.5 percent of midlife and older adults and is the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These at-home tools can help people use their inhalers properly and stick to their drug schedules, says Rajan Merchant, M.D., an asthma, allergy and clinical immunology specialist at Dignity Health Woodland Clinic in Woodland, California. Nearly a third of older adults currently miss doses on their inhaler schedule, and 74 percent use their inhalers improperly, according to studies.