What Can the Pharmaceutical Industry Learn from E-Cigarettes?

Simon Smith

What Can the Pharmaceutical Industry Learn from E-Cigarettes?

Simon Smith1, Chris Rosser1, Sophia Godfrey1, David Rimmer1 & Joanne Channon1

1Cambridge Consultants, Science Park, Milton Road, Cambridge, CB4 0DW, UK


Recently, the e-cigarette has risen in prominence as the main alternative to combustible cigarettes. Like an inhaler, it is an aerosol delivery device, but one with very different characteristics including:

How it delivers – E-cigarettes create a condensation aerosol on demand, a process dependent on both heating and cooling. Heating determines shot weight but excessive heating leads to the generation of harmful carbonyls.  Cooling determines particle size.

How it is used – E-cigarettes have a device inhalation resistance a magnitude greater than that of an inhaler. Users take longer but shallower breaths which could affect deposition in the lung.  Additionally, e-cigarettes are self-titrating which means that more than one dose is taken out of the device at a time.

E-cigarette vapour has fundamentally different characteristics to the aerosol traditionally delivered by inhalers due to differences in inhalation flow rate and particle size distribution.  Vapour generation takes a number of seconds in an e-cigarette so it is appropriate this is combined with a high resistance device where the inhalation time is longer.

These insights allow for the creation of a low cost, adaptable platform for the delivery of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs). New dosing regimens can be explored with multiple inhalations delivering over a session. Particle size can be varied within the device opening up new possibilities for treatment. However, smart control of power delivery is needed to ensure consistency of dose and to minimise the generation of harmful byproducts. Any device will need to be developed and manufactured to the appropriate standards.

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