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By Paul Myrdal

Paul MyrdalOur lungs are an essential organ in our bodies, yet lung diseases—chronic, acute, and infectious—affect millions of people worldwide. The World Health Organization estimates that approx. 235 million people suffer from asthma; more than three million people died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in 2012; and pneumonia accounts for 15% of all deaths in children under five years.

Although there are many therapies already on the market, pharmaceutical scientists are always looking for new and better ways to treat lung illnesses. The field of pulmonary drug delivery continues to be a changing area of research and development, particularly for new formulations and device technologies.

One method under investigation is using drug-loaded nanoparticles incorporated into swellable and respirable microparticles, which has been shown to help avoid rapid clearance from the lungs. Inhaled immunosuppressive agents are also being investigated for maintenance therapy following lung transplantation, providing a more localized delivery of the diseased site. Dextran-10 and other dextrans have been shown to provide a novel path for formulating peptides and proteins for pulmonary delivery.


Metered-dose inhalers have dominated the lung drug delivery market for around six decades. However, using dry powder inhalers (DPIs) for drug delivery is a growing area of research. There are more than 20 DPIs on the market, including one single-use, disposable device. Further research shows that dry powder with inhalable lung surfactant-based carriers has excellent aerosol dispersion performance.

An ongoing issue in formulation of lung treatments is predicting how the therapies and devices are accurately used by the patients or caregivers. International standards such as ISO 20072:2009 and the general need for patient-friendly devices necessitate appropriate clinical test standards for orally inhaled products.

Fifteen articles were published from 2013 to 2015 in the AAPS PharmSciTech theme Advances in Formulation and Device Technologies for Pulmonary Drug Delivery, guest edited by Steve W. Stein and myself. These articles outline many advances in the pulmonary drug delivery and devices field. With this research and more, let’s continue to improve lives.

Paul Myrdal, Ph.D., is an associate professor in pharmaceutics at the University of Arizona. He also serves as an associate editor for AAPS PharmSciTech.