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J Aerosol Med. 2004 Fall;17(3):231-8.

Intra-subject variability in lung dose in healthy volunteers using five conventional portable inhalers.

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  • 1Department of Respiratory Medicine, Scheffield Children's Hospital, Western Bank, United Kingdom.


High intra-subject variability in lung dose achieved when using aerosol delivery systems may impact on the efficacy of treatment in clinical practice. While the dose delivered by metered dose inhalers (pMDIs) is highly reproducible when tested in vitro, the variability in dose delivered to the lungs is known to be high. It has been suggested that newer delivery systems such as dry powder inhalers (DPIs) or breath actuated pMDIs significantly reduce the intra-subject variability in lung dose, but this remains untested. The 30-min urinary salbutamol technique was used to assess intra-subject variability in lung dose for five portable inhaler devices. Thirteen healthy adult subjects inhaled salbutamol from five different devices. Each device was used at five separate study days, a total of 25 visits. The devices studied were the Evohaler pMDI, a pMDI with Volumatic (pMDI + HC), the Easibreath, the Accuhaler and the Turbohaler. Subjects inhaled 400 microg of salbutamol and produced a urine sample exactly 30 min later. Quantities of salbutamol contained in the urine were determined using an HPLC technique. The mean coefficient of variation (CV% and range) for lung dose were 31.8% (20.1-87.4) for the pMDI + HC, Easi-breathe 35.9% (10.4-66.2), Accuhaler 40.4% (15.6-75.2), Turbohaler 42.4% (20.7-74.2), and 52.0% (27.1-49.3) for the pMDI alone. There was no significant statistical significant difference between any of the devices. In seven of 13 subjects, the greatest lung dose was achieved with the Volumatic. The observed intra-subject in health volunteers is similar to the reported intra-subject variability of bioavailability for a number of oral medications. Though there was trend towards higher variability when using the pMDI, this was not statistically significant and was largely attributable to one subject in with a poor technique.

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