|A 1957 ad for the Riker inhaler (a)|
To remedy this problem the U.S. Government hired researchers to come up with a bug repellent that would help allied soldiers attack bugs.
Lyle Goodhue and William Sullivans must have first looked to the past to find a solution. They would have learned that in 1790 pressurized aerosols were introduced in France to create carbonated beverages.
They would have learned that in 1837 the first spray can was made of heavy steal in Perpigna. The can had a valve in it that allowed it to create the spray. Several prototypes were tested in 1862, although nothing ever came of it. (1)
They would have learned that in 1927 a Norwegian man named Erik Rotheim patented the first spray can that was capable of holding pressurized contents and spraying them. It's now considered the forerunner of modern spray cans.
Goodhue and Sullivans then took these old ideas and combined them with ideas of their own and came up with a design capable of carrying a pressurized propellant called flurocarbon. The bug spray was added to the propellent and the spray can allowed for the bugs to be sprayed and killed.
So while the first spray cans were used to hold bug sprays during the war, the concept soon evolved to other products, such as paint and perfume. It was the perfume market that Riker Laboratories (a subsidiary of what is now 3M Pharmaceuticals) was thinking of when it started tinkering with this product. They wanted to create a spray perfume. (2)
The Riker inhaler was a major breakthrough. This product was incorporated with the first ever actuator with a one-way valve that allowed for the medicine and propellant to be sprayed in a uniform dose (a metered dose), and soon became known as the metered dose inhaler (MDI). The Medi-Iso delivered a metered dose of 0.15 mg and the Medi-Epi delivered a dose of 0.06 mg. The inhalers were easy to use, provided fast relief, and were easy to lug around. (2)
The design of this original inhaler was very similar to many of the inhalers we lug around today, such as the Ventolin inhaler. It could easily fit into a boy's front pocket or a mom's purse, and using it was as as easy as squeezing the actuator.
Electric nebulizers in the 1950s were large, bulky and made of glass. They were also expensive, so many asthmatics had less expensive nebulizers that required them to squeeze a bulb to aerosolize the medicine. Many asthmatics continued to smoke asthma cigarettes, insents, or other palliative asthma remedies.
So getting asthma relief was inconvenient when the medihaler was introduuced, and the relief given wasn't very good. So this was the market advertisers for Riker Laboratories aimed for when they started their first advertising campaign.
|1956 ad for the Medihaler (b)|
Medihaler with your favorite bronchodilator:The Medihaler became an instant hit. It, coupled with the discovery of theophylline, caused the market for asthma medicines to boom.
- No rubber bulbs to deteriorate
- No breakage of costly glass nebulizers
- No spilling of solution in pocket or purse
Gregg Mitman, in his book "Breathing Space: How allergies shape our lives and landscapes," explained that between 1972 and 1985 prescription drugs in the United States showed a modest 7 percent increase in the number of prescriptions filled.
During the same period, prescriptions for asthma drugs increased 200 percent." The market for asthma inhalers was so bullish that other pharmaceutical companies raced to make their asthma remedies available as an inhaler. (3)
Mitman further explained that the sale of asthma inhalers alone (both beta adrenergics and others), accounted for "25 percent of all prescriptions dispensed for the treatment of asthma in 1985."
So it didn't take long at all for pharmaceuticals, doctors and asthmatics to catch on to the convenience of the rescue inhaler. Life for asthmatics changed forever, and for the better.
Click here for more asthma history.
- About.com, "History of spray cans," http://inventors.about.com/od/astartinventions/a/aerosol.htm (provides a good history of the spray can)
- Brenner, Barry E, ed., "Emergency Medicine," 1998, from chapter one "Where have we been? A history of acute asthma," page 23
- Mitmann, Gregg, "Breathing Space: How allergies shape our lives and landscape, 2007, page 237 (a great read if you want to learn more about the history of asthma/ allergies)