Respiratory Tract: Structure and Attractions for Drug Delivery Using Dry Powder Inhalers

AAPS PharmSciTech. 2020 Aug 21;21(7):238. doi: 10.1208/s12249-020-01757-2.


Respiratory tract is one of the oldest routes for drug delivery. It can be used for local and systemic drug deliveries. Inhalation therapy has several advantages over oral. It delivers the drug efficiently to the lung with minimal systemic exposure, thus avoiding systemic side effects common with oral route. In this review, different types of inhaler devices are illustrated like metered dose inhalers (MDIs), dry powder inhalers (DPIs), nebulizers, and the new soft mist inhalers (SMIs). Since dry powder is more stable than when in liquid form, we will discuss in detail DPIs highlighting different techniques utilized in preparation of dry powders with or without carrier to improve flowability and drug delivery to deep lungs. Types of DPIs are briefly discussed with examples from the market. Several mechanisms for particle deposition are mentioned with factors governing the process. Pharmacokinetic profile of the inhaled particles is detailed starting from the dissolution, followed by the rapid absorption and ending with systemic clearance. New technologies like 3D printing in pulmonary field are also highlighted.

Keywords: drug delivery; dry powder inhalers; inhalation; new technologies; pulmonary pharmacokinetics.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Drug Delivery Systems / methods*
  • Dry Powder Inhalers
  • Humans
  • Lung / drug effects*
  • Metered Dose Inhalers
  • Powders / chemistry


  • Powders