The output and size distribution of aerosols from dry powder inhalers are dependent on the flow rate through the device. Therefore, in an in vivo study, we examined the flow-dependency of the effect of formoterol when delivered from a dry powder inhaler, the Aerolizer, in a flow range relevant to schoolchildren. In a preliminary study comprising 126 asthmatic children aged 3-10 yrs, the relationship between age and peak inspiratory flow (PIF) rate through the Aerolizer was determined. Mean PIF was 104 L.min-1 and all children aged > 5 yrs performed a PIF > 60 L.min-1. Sixteen children aged 8-15 yrs with exercise-induced asthma (EIA) took part in the main trial comparing the protective effect of 12 micrograms formoterol inhaled at 60 and 120 L.min-1. The effect from high and low inspiratory flow was judged from the protective effect against EIA 12 h after drug administration. The decrease in forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) after exercise was 34% on the placebo day, but only 15% when formoterol was inhaled at the high flow rate. This difference was statistically significant. The decrease in FEV1 was 23% after treatment with formoterol inhaled at the low flow rate, that was not significantly different from placebo or from high-flow formoterol treatment. These clinical findings correspond with the in vitro findings of flow-dependent fine particle mass from the Aerolizer, and corroborate the relationship between fine particle mass of aerosol and clinical effect. The results indicate a flow-dependent effect of formoterol dry powder inhaled from the Aerolizer, within the range of inspiratory flow rate obtainable by school-children. This questions its applicability in children with asthma.
European Respiratory Journal, 1997, Vol 10, Issue 9, p. 2105-9