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Performance of Turbuhaler® in Patients with Acute Airway Obstruction and COPD, and in Children with Asthma

Understanding the Clinical Importance of Adequate Peak Inspiratory Flow, High Lung Deposition, and Low In Vivo Dose Variability


The dry-powder inhaler (DPI) Turbuhaler® has been on the market for nearly two decades. Products containing terbutaline, formoterol, budesonide, and the combination budesonide/formoterol are widely used by patients with asthma and COPD. Most patients and physicians find Turbuhaler® easy to use, and local side effects are rare. This is thought to arise from the lack of additives or only small amounts in the formulation, in addition to minimal deposition of the drug in the oropharynx and on the vocal cords during inspiration.

The function of Turbuhaler® has frequently been questioned. This article aims to review and clarify some key issues that have been challenged in the literature (e.g. the effectiveness of Turbuhaler® in patients with more restricting conditions), to discuss the importance of lung deposition, and to explain the low in vivo variability associated with Turbuhaler® and the lack of correlation with the higher in vitro variability.

Turbuhaler®, like other DPIs, is flow dependent to some degree. However, a peak inspiratory flow (PIF) through Turbuhaler® of 30 L/min gives a good clinical effect. These PIF values can be obtained by patients with conditions thought to be difficult to manage with inhalational agents, such as asthmatic children and adult patients with acute severe airway obstruction and COPD. Excellent clinical results with Turbuhaler® in large controlled studies in patients with COPD and acute severe airway obstruction provide indirect evidence that medication delivered via Turbuhaler® reaches the target organ.

Due to the large amount of small particles and the moderate inbuilt resistance in Turbuhaler®, which opens up the vocal cords during inhalation, Turbuhaler® is associated with a high lung deposition (25–40% of the delivered dose) compared with pressurized metered-dose inhalers (pMDIs) and other DPIs. A good correlation has been found between lung deposition and clinical efficacy. A high lung deposition always results in the best ratio between clinical efficacy and risk of unwanted systemic activity. Studies with Turbuhaler® also show that the in vivo variation in lung deposition is significantly lower compared with a pMDI or, for example, the Diskus® inhaler, and much lower than the in vitro dose variability seen in laboratory tests.

Turbuhaler® appears to be a reliable DPI which can be used with confidence by patients with airway diseases, including those with clinical conditions believed to be difficult to manage with inhalational therapy.

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    1 The use of trade names is for product identification purposes only and does not imply endorsement.

  2. 2.

    2 Diskus is named Accuhaler® in the US.


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Lars Borgström and Jarl Ingelf are fulltime employees at AstraZeneca, Lund, Sweden. Olof Selroos was employed by AstraZeneca up to 2001, and since then has performed consultancy work for the company.

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Correspondence to Prof. Olof Selroos.

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Selroos, O., Borgström, L. & Ingelf, J. Performance of Turbuhaler® in Patients with Acute Airway Obstruction and COPD, and in Children with Asthma. Treat Respir Med 5, 305–315 (2006). https://doi.org/10.2165/00151829-200605050-00002

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  • Salbutamol
  • Budesonide
  • Fluticasone Propionate
  • Terbutaline
  • Formoterol