For decades, the concept of administering drugs directly into the bronchial tree, in the form of aerosols, has been the cornerstone of therapy in pneumology. Spray technology was initially developed in the middle of the 19th century, but the concept of aerosol therapy was really born with the discovery of adrenaline and epinephrine at the beginning of the 20th century. According to a paper published in 1936 , the first case of asthma treated with aerosolised adrenaline was reported in 1912. Pictures dating from this era illustrate the kinds of materials that were used, probably resulting in dissemination of the drugs more around the patient than in the respiratory tract itself ! However, even with such poor technical conditions, bronchodilation with β-agonists was so efficient that it stimulated technological research, leading to the design of metered-dose inhalers in the early 1950s. From that time, aerosol therapy became the subject of active research both in the field of devices, with the development of ultrasonic and jet nebulisers in the 1950s, and in the field of formulations, leading to the discovery of new drugs such as beclomethasone, which revolutionised the treatment of asthma in the early 1970s.
- ©ERS 2005
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