Greener Inhalers for the UK

Wednesday, 13 June, 2012

The Centre's Sustainable Respiratory Care group will lead research on why the UK continues to use inhalers with a much higher carbon footprint than other European countries.  25,000 people a year die of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) in the UK alone and the NHS spends £420 million a year directly on treating COPD with an estimated 1 tonne of CO2e per episode.

Following the Montreal protocol banning the use of CFC gases in 1987, many countries moved directly to a new technology for inhalers based on Dried Powder (DPIs) while the UK still prescribes a majority of metered dose inhalers (MDIs) which use powerful greenhouse gases.  The team will research whether there is any good clinical evidence to support the continued use of the high carbon MDIs and whether there are any other barriers to changing to a greener solution. 

At a Sustainable Respiratory Care summit on 23 March, participants from across the specialty identified important areas for improving the sustainability of COPD care, ranging from lower carbon inhalers to better integration of primary, secondary and emergency care.  Since then we have run a brief survey to identify priority areas for research and developed 3 areas in more detail: 1. Inhalers , 2. Early detection/prevention (by smoking cessation and physical activity)  and 3. Home oxygen therapy.

Firstly, the team will outline the carbon pathway of COPD at a high level to pull together and present the carbon 'story' behind COPD care and some of the positive changes which are taking place already.  Secondly, we will carry out a focused piece of work on inhalers including both research on a possible shift from MDIs to DPIs and also a project on inhaler recycling. Thirdly, we invite colleagues in the field working in the areas of early detection/prevention and oxygen therapy to lead on working up proposals for including sustainability measures, with our input.  

Please do join our Sustainable Respiratory Care network to join the ongoing discussions and see the meeting note in our resource library for more detail.