My List of 10 Best Asthma Discoveries And Inventions Of All Time
So, it’s no fun having asthma. But, we are also very lucky to live in the modern asthma era. This era began in 1901 with the discovery of epinephrine. Beginning with epinephrine, here’s my list of the best asthma discoveries and inventions of all time.
- Epinephrine. The discovery of epinephrine in 1901 was an evolutionary breakthrough. Within a few years researchers discovered it rapidly ended asthma attacks. This made it the very first asthma rescue medicine. Researchers immediately began studying it to learn how it worked. This essentially gave birth to modern efforts to understand our disease.
- Electric Nebulizer Systems. Epinephrine had to be injected into a muscle. So, this meant that you had to visit a doctor to benefit from it. By 1910 it was available as a solution to be nebulized. But, nebulizers were operated by rubber squeeze bulbs. This meant you had to work hard to inhale the medicine. The invention of the electric nebulizer in the 1930s solved both these problems. Now, for the first time ever, asthmatics had access to rescue medicine at home. Initially, they were large, bulky, and made of glass. They were expensive and fragile. But, by the 1980s, they were fine-tuned and made convenient for home use. This made them ideal for asthmatics.
- Inhaler. The invention of the inhaler in 1957 was another evolutionary breakthrough. It was lightweight and easy to operate. It allowed asthmatics to carry their rescue medicine in their pockets and purses. This made it available to them anywhere and anyplace.
- Albuterol. Researchers never stopped tinkering with the epinephrine molecule. They fine-tuned it by the 1980s. In 1981, the albuterol inhaler was introduced as Ventolin and Proventil. In 1987, the first albuterol solution was introduced. Now, asthmatics had access to a rescue medicine that was both stronger and safer than epinephrine. It would go on to become the most popular asthma medicine of all time.
- Systemic Steroids. These were introduced to the market during the 1950s. They were quickly discovered to end asthma attacks. They were also found to prevent asthma. The problem was that there were some severe consequences when used long-term. So, they were reserved for emergent situations. Physicians would use them to end asthma attacks. But, patients would be gradually weaned off of them. Together with epinephrine, steroids have helped save many asthmatics from severe asthma attacks.
- Asthma Guidelines. The first asthma guidelines were introduced by the British Thoracic Society in 1990. Since then, various other organizations have created asthma guidelines. 1 These guidelines are a huge boon for asthmatics. They make sure regional doctors have access to all the best asthma wisdom. They guide doctors in their efforts to help asthmatics obtain ideal asthma control.
- Bronchial Thermoplasty. This procedure was introduced in 2008 to help people diagnosed with severe asthma. A small tube is entered into the airways, and smooth muscles burned away. This prevents these muscles from spasming and squeezing airways. This prevents asthma symptoms. This procedure has now helped many severe asthmatics obtain better asthma control.
- Inhaled corticosteroids (ICS). Researchers started playing with inhaled corticosteroids in the 1960s. The most common one studied was beclomethasone. It was introduced to the market in 1981 as Becotide and Vanceril. Another called Beclovent was introduced a year later. The recommended dose was 2 puffs four times every day. Initially, due to the steroid scare in the 1950s, physicians were scared to prescribe them, especially for kids. But, subsequent studies showed they prevented asthma and were very safe. When the first asthma guidelines were introduced in 1989, a daily regimen of ICS were highly recommended for obtaining ideal asthma control.
- Long-Acting Inhalers. A problem with early asthma controller medicine is they had to be taken four times a day. This was not ideal. This was hard to do, especially for those of us with busy lives. Often, we forgot a dose. And this resulted in the occasional preventable asthma attacks. As researchers continued to tinker with the molecule, they found a way to make the medicine last 12 hours. This made it so patients only needed 1-2 puffs daily of the medicine needed to control their disease. This made is so much easier for us asthmatics to be compliant with our asthma treatment regimens. The result is better asthma control for asthmatics.
- Combination Inhalers. So great was the advent of asthma controller inhalers. These included both long-acting rescue inhalers and long-acting corticosteroid inhalers. One genius had an idea of combining these two medicines into one inhaler. The first one on the market was Advair. Now Symbicort, Dulera, and Breo are also options. This made it so you could get two inhalers for the price of one. It also greatly improved compliance, allowing more asthmatics to obtain ideal asthma control.
Close to making this list: Asthma gene research, Leukotriene antagonists, and biologics. You could make a good case for all of these moving up this list. Perhaps, when I rewrite this in two years, gene research will be #1. It’s possible.
Conclusion. Sure, you can debate me on the order of my list here. You may have your own list and it might even include other inventions or discoveries. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
- Meijer, R.J., et al., "Comparison of guidelines and self-management plans in asthma," European Respiratory Journal, 1997, http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.597.6312&rep=rep1&type=pdf, accessed April 24, 2018