Recent years have seen renewed interest in inhaled drug delivery. We take a deep dive into inhaled formulations with Lei Mao, Director of Inhalation Science and Product Development at Recipharm Laboratories
Stephanie Sutton | | Interview
What was your route into inhaled drug development? And why is this such a fascinating field?
When I started my career as an inhalation formulation section head at Norton Healthcare in the UK (which later became IVAX, UK, and is now part of Teva), I was fortunate enough to work with colleagues who developed Spinhaler, the first commercially successful dry powder inhaler (DPI). During that time, I learnt that DPI formulations are counterintuitively the “simplest” yet “most complicated” among all dosage forms. On the one hand, DPI formulations only contain two ingredients: micronized API and lactose – and it doesn’t get much simpler than that. (My colleagues used to joke that the first DPI formulation was prepared in the laboratory by shaking the ingredients in a plastic bag!) On the other hand, you must achieve good product performance from a fixed device with only two components – and that it is extremely challenging. This melding of simplicity and complexity really drew me to the field.
Since starting my career, I’ve been fortunate to witness constant advances in inhalation science, along with the launch of many patient-centric products. Asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are two of the most prevalent diseases worldwide – most people will know someone who suffers (or suffer themselves). I’ve had colleagues who suffered with asthma and the inhaler significantly improved the quality of their life. And that really emphasized to me the importance of my field of work.
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