Study: Patients don't know how to use drug delivery devices

The evidence is clear: Patients don't properly use drug delivery devices like inhalers or epinephrine autoinjectors--such as Mylan's ($MYL) EpiPen.

On the heels of a survey finding that patients are overconfident in their ability to operate drug delivery devices, even more direct proof was offered in a study from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, which observed more than 145 people using those devices at their clinics.

Only 16% of patients used the autoinjector properly, with more than half skipping three or four steps. Mistakes included not holding the device in place for 10 seconds after releasing the drug, not placing the needle on the thigh or not depressing the device hard enough to trigger release of the drug.

Similarly, only 7% of inhaler patients used the proper breathing technique, with almost two-thirds skipping more than three steps. But at least they received some of the medication, which was still better than the autoinjector users who received none if they didn't depress the device hard enough.

"We found that incorrect use of these medical devices is still a problem," said Dr. Rana Bonds, the study's lead author and medical professor at the university. "Despite the redesign of the autoinjector for easier use, most patients continued to make at least one mistake with the device. Most patients made multiple mistakes and would not have benefited from self-administration of the potentially life-saving treatment if the need arose."

It's not that companies are not doing anything to fix this problem. Boehringer Ingelheim is testing the use of its Respimat inhalers with a sensor from COPD and asthma app company Propeller Health attached to the back so that proper technique can be monitored. Mylan's website has a video demonstrating how to use the EpiPen and lets customers order a free trainer if they desire.

Having mentioned those efforts, the studies make clear that more work is needed in the patient-training arena to ensure proper use of drug delivery devices.

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