Medicines with new inhaler technology set to help thousands of Kiwis with respiratory disease

A new PHARMAC funded inhaler device, designed to deliver respiratory medicines, could help thousands of Kiwis suffering from diseases like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), reduce their medication dosage frequency.

COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in NZ behind cancer, heart disease and stroke1, with over 28,000 Kiwis estimated to be living with severe COPD requiring stays in hospital2 and costing the country as much as $192 million per annum3.

Similarly New Zealand has one of the highest rates of asthma in the world, with nearly 8,000 people hospitalised each year4, and an estimated 65 deaths every year5 as a result of the disease.

The new Ellipta inhaler was created by over 200 medical engineers and specialists over a ten year period at GlaxoSmithKline, as a more efficient way for patients to self-administer medications for these two respiratory diseases.

Clinical evidence shows that patients found the new technology easy to use with 98% of patients being able to use the pre-filled Ellipta device correctly from the first day.6

Professor Norbert Berend, GSK Global Medical Expert and past president of Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand (TSANZ) says that correct administration of COPD and asthma medications is essential to ensure the best outcome for patients. He says this is why the new inhaler device will have a significant positive impact on those suffering from COPD and Asthma.

“The inhaler device is a very important part of treatment. Many studies have shown that the majority of patients have difficulties using their inhalers properly with suboptimal or no effective doses being delivered. As a healthcare professional, it requires a major educational effort to ensure that patients continue to use their inhalers properly after being first instructed in their use,” says Prof Berend.

Along with the difficulty of using inhalers, a lack of adherence in using the prescribed medication can have a detrimental effect on patients.

He says those COPD and asthma patients who do not get an adequate dose of medication can experience worse symptoms and more asthma attacks.

Hospitalisation rates are highest for Māori, at more than three times the non-Māori, non-Pacific, non-Asian rate for hospitalisation, and Māori have over twice the rate for mortality.2

COPD is often undiagnosed, and for this reason at least 200,000 (or 15%) of the adult population may be affected.7 “There are two advantages to the new inhalers. The first is that they have been found to be very easy to use by patients, even those with severe disease. The second is that they contain medicines with a 24 hour duration of action so they only need to be used once a day,” he says.

“Those most likely to benefit from the new inhaler technology are asthma or COPD patients who have difficulty managing their inhalers or who have trouble remembering to take their medications regularly, for whom the use of these new medications is indicated,” says Prof Berend.

The new fully funded COPD medications include Incruse Ellipta and Anoro Ellipta which are long term once-daily, bronchodilator treatments. These medications relieve symptoms in adult patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), also known as chronic bronchitis, “smoker’s cough” or emphysema. Breo Ellipta is a once-daily combination medicine used for COPD patients who are at high risk of flare-ups and also in adults with asthma to improve symptoms and prevent bronchospasm or asthma attacks.

Watch an interview, New inhaler design could help Kiwis suffering respiratory disease, in The New Zealand Herald.



  1. MOH. Mortality and Demographic Data 2009. Wellington 2014
  2. Telfar Barnard, L., Baker, M., Pierse, N., & Zhang, J. (2015). The impact of respiratory disease in New Zealand: 2014 update. Wellington: Asthma Foundation
  3. - excluding loss of income or the costs to family or loss of quality of life
  4. New Zealand Asthma Foundation, Asthma Facts 2014. Data from University of Otago Statistics 2013. Review of admission information (provided to Asthma Foundation on 1 Jan 2013)
  5. Ministry of Health Mortality Data - Asthma as cause of death, by age and sex, total population 2011
  6. Riley JH et al. Use of a new dry powder inhaler to deliver umeclidinium/vilanterol in the treatment of COPD. Presented at ERS 2013; Barcelona, Spain. Poster no: P4145
  7. Broad, J. & Jackson R. (2003). Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer in New Zealand. Auckland: The University of Auckland


Enquiries or interview requests please contact:

Kim O'Donohue
Phone: +61 477 322 431

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