Boehringer inks second 'smart inhaler' pact of 2016, this time with Qualcomm

Boehringer Ingelheim

The race for the respiratory tech lead is on, and Boehringer Ingelheim is the latest to surge forward.

The German drugmaker has teamed up with Qualcomm on a wireless tracker for its Respimat inhalers. Patients can then keep tabs on their dosing just as they count steps with their FitBits and smartphone apps.

The partners will develop a small, low-power module for BI’s Respimat inhaler, the device used with the respiratory therapies across Boehringer’s portfolio. That disposable module will wirelessly connect the inhaler to a Qualcomm platform, which will in turn track puffs on the inhaler. The collected data could then be shared with patients and healthcare providers.

It’s not Boehringer’s first foray into the smart inhaler field. Back in March, Boehringer joined hands with Madison, WI-based Propeller Health, inviting BI's asthma and COPD patients to participate in a study assessing Propeller's smart inhaler and its impact on adherence. Like Qualcomm's, Propeller’s device platform tracks how and when patients use their inhalers, and it can send alerts to them and their caregivers.

The smart inhaler field is not brand new to Qualcomm, either. In January, Novartis said it would collaborate with the California tech giant to develop the next generation of its Breezhaler inhaler. Later that month, the Financial Times reported that Qualcomm was holding discussions with respiratory giant GlaxoSmithKline about forming a joint venture.

A handful of other big players are also in the smart inhaler picture; earlier this month, AstraZeneca joined forces with Quintiles on a clinical trial to test whether mobile medication reminders help COPD patients stick to their dosing. The U.K.’s Vectura recently got involved, too, by striking its own pact with Propeller in May.

Considering the intense competition--and the serious payer pressure--in the respiratory field, it’s no wonder companies are looking for ways to get ahead. Boehringer itself has felt the effects of both those factors with lead therapy Spiriva, and as that product moves toward the end of its patent life, it’s looking to newer LAMA/LABA combo Spiolto--up against meds including GSK’s Anoro--to come through.

- read BI's release

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