Aerosol drug delivery: developments in device design and clinical use

Lancet. 2011 Mar 19;377(9770):1032-45. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(10)60926-9. Epub 2010 Oct 29.


Aerosolised drugs are prescribed for use in a range of inhaler devices and systems. Delivering drugs by inhalation requires a formulation that can be successfully aerosolised and a delivery system that produces a useful aerosol of the drug; the particles or droplets need to be of sufficient size and mass to be carried to the distal lung or deposited on proximal airways to give rise to a therapeutic effect. Patients and caregivers must use and maintain these aerosol drug delivery devices correctly. In recent years, several technical innovations have led to aerosol drug delivery devices with efficient drug delivery and with novel features that take into account factors such as dose tracking, portability, materials of manufacture, breath actuation, the interface with the patient, combination therapies, and systemic delivery. These changes have improved performance in all four categories of devices: metered dose inhalers, spacers and holding chambers, dry powder inhalers, and nebulisers. Additionally, several therapies usually given by injection are now prescribed as aerosols for use in a range of drug delivery devices. In this Review, we discuss recent developments in the design and clinical use of aerosol devices over the past 10-15 years with an emphasis on the treatment of respiratory disorders.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Aerosols / administration & dosage*
  • Cyclosporine / administration & dosage
  • Drug Delivery Systems
  • Equipment Design
  • Genetic Therapy / methods
  • Helium / administration & dosage
  • Humans
  • Iloprost / administration & dosage
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / administration & dosage
  • Nebulizers and Vaporizers*
  • Oxygen / administration & dosage
  • Particle Size
  • Respiration, Artificial
  • Vaccines / administration & dosage
  • Vasodilator Agents / administration & dosage


  • Aerosols
  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Vaccines
  • Vasodilator Agents
  • Helium
  • heliox
  • Cyclosporine
  • Iloprost
  • Oxygen