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Medication Delivery: The Next Frontier for The Vaping Industry?

Ed Oswald
by · March 29, 2016

Vaping for Medication & Drug DeliveryVaping has become increasingly common these days, so it was only a matter of time before other reasons to vape (besides smoking cessation and nicotine delivery) started to pop up. We’ve all heard about the use of cannabis, and I recently discussed one of the latest alternatives, vaping caffeine, but researchers are now looking into whether or not vaping is an efficient method to deliver prescription medications as well; to varying degrees of success.

Let’s be clear — putting medication in vapor form is definitely nothing new. Asthma inhalers have been used for decades to deliver a vaporized stream of medications aimed at relaxing constricted air passages to ease breathing. In many states that have legalized cannabis for medicinal purposes, only vaping of oils and concentrates is permitted, and not smoking the plant itself.

Vaping’s success in smoking cessation has prompted several pharmaceutical companies to look at using the same concepts as the vaping industry in order to deliver medications more effectively. As we all know from traditional vaping, nicotine is delivered faster through an electronic cigarette than a traditional one (and in many cases, requiring less nicotine content). This could be potentially life-changing for those reliant on medication to ensure quality of life.

The Evidence for Vapable Medications

Med Vapor InhalorGoing back to the medicinal cannabis analogy, studies have shown that vapor delivery works much better than smoking. A 2014 Israeli study showed an average of 45% reduction in pain intensity among those participants with chronic nerve pain, and it was achieved within 20 minutes of a single puff of vapor.

While this is only one application (and certainly there’s a lot of disagreements on its true efficacy), it’s possible that similar quick-acting relief might be possible for a wide variety of other ailments. This is why researchers are looking to vaping to improve medication effectiveness, because there is evidence that it works.

There are at least two efforts out there to produce vapable medications. One from Alexza Pharmaceuticals aims to deliver anti-seizure medication to patients with epilepsy and other seizure disorders. Early study results show promise in fighting seizures caused by photosensitivity, as well as effectiveness in preventing further seizures when administered after the patient suffered a seizure event.

Vapable drugs haven’t been a sure-fire hit though. While diabetes patients might seem like ideal candidates for this type of drug delivery — considering the painful insulin shots they must endure daily — drug maker Sanofi found out the hard way that people weren’t interested. It was forced to end production of its inhaler called Afrezza after extensive marketing efforts failed to produce a sustainable business. The drug’s creator, MannKind, still plans to press on though.

The Vape Misinformation Fight

Unfortunately, one of the issues that these companies may have to face is the sheer volume of misinformation the anti-vaping lobby has put out against vaping. Although their main focus is nicotine delivery, the negative news cycle about vaping may be creating trouble for other potential industries as well.

Vapers themselves know from experience the health benefits of vaping, and there have been numerous studies that continue to show that the core ingredients of the vapor itself are likely to be safe. That information is not likely reach public at large though, who may be swayed by the negative press.

The potential for vaping to go far beyond nicotine, and the fact that it may help people in more ways than just helping them to quit smoking, is all the more reason to fight as hard as we can to keep vaping in a positive light.

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