Skip to Content

Four-Cent Inhaler

Cheap device could replace syringes
January 1, 2007

Drugmakers are increasingly turning to inhalable versions of vaccines and drugs in order to avoid the hassle and danger of syringes. A new inhaler that costs only four cents could administer powdered drugs as effectively as traditional inhalers that cost 10 times as much. The technology, which uses no moving parts, could help poor countries stop relying on syringes, which cost pennies apiece but require trained staff and carry an infection risk. To make their inhaler cheaper, engineers at Cambridge Consultants of Cambridge, England, and Boston focused on its internal shape. When a user inhales, a kind of miniature tornado forms inside the device, lifting a powdered drug into the air. The company is in talks with pharmaceutical firms to test the device with a powdered flu vaccine, among other drugs. Though an inhaler is a fraction of the price of a vaccine dose (currently $3 to $7), the savings could make a difference. “Everyone in the field dreams of a future with these kinds of simple, low-cost vaccine delivery systems,” says Donald Francis, cofounder of Global Solutions for Infectious Diseases, a nonprofit vaccine developer. “Moving to a needle-free model is a goal most of us share.”

A prototype inhaler shown here lacks moving parts but delivers drugs effectively thanks to its internal shape.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

Here’s how a Twitter engineer says it will break in the coming weeks

One insider says the company’s current staffing isn’t able to sustain the platform.

Technology that lets us “speak” to our dead relatives has arrived. Are we ready?

Digital clones of the people we love could forever change how we grieve.

How to befriend a crow

I watched a bunch of crows on TikTok and now I'm trying to connect with some local birds.

Starlink signals can be reverse-engineered to work like GPS—whether SpaceX likes it or not

Elon said no thanks to using his mega-constellation for navigation. Researchers went ahead anyway.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.