A Low Cost, Made in Thailand Asthma Spacer by Thammasat University Hospital

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Asthma is one of the noncommunicable diseases that the patients infected with need to take the Meter Dose Inhaler (MDI). However, for children and older people, MDI is difficult to use because the patients often have difficulty coordinating breathing and the use of the inhaler which makes the medication cannot effectively flow into the lung. Therefore, “Spacer” is introduced as a tool that can effectively release the medication from the inhaler and enhance the flow of the medication into the lung.

In Thailand, the problem with the spacer is that most of them have to be imported and there are only a few importers, hence, having a high price. The spacers are not covered in the medical expenses and are not available in the drug store, making it more difficult for patients to buy them.

Prof. Dr. Orapan Poachanukoon, Director of Center of Excellence for Asthma and Pulmonary Diseases at Thammasat University Hospital, and chairperson of the Thai Asthma Council Association wanted to find a solution for this problem. She and her team have invented “Thai Kit Spacer”, a low-cost spacer, made entirely in Thailand, to substitute those imports and increase patients’ access and affordability.

The idea behind “Thai Kit Spacer” started from a DIY idea 10 years ago and had been developed ever since. Besides the fact that it is low-cost and a good substitute to those imported spacers, during the pandemic, it also reduces the potential spreading of COVID-19 from the patients to others around them when using.

First, they equipped water bottles with a valve, but they are not durable. So, they continued to find a solution that works best with patients. Later, Thai Kit Spacer later was made possible with the help from the Plastics Institute of Thailand on molding and production. The latest version of Thai Kit Spacer now covers both nose and mouth, allowing the patients to effectively inhale the medication and is easy to use for both children and the elderly.

In the middle of the COVID-19 outbreak, the World Health Organization, as well as asthma associations in Thailand and overseas have advised hospitals to stop using nebulizers, as it could aerosolize droplets containing viruses in case the patients contract COVID-19. This makes all the patients using the nebulizer have to start using MDI instead.

Dr. Orapan decided to make some changes to create a “Thai Kit Spacer (COVID-19 Model).” This model reduces aerosol and the potential spreading of the virus helps to protect people around the patients. The model also has an oxygen tube for patients with severe symptoms who need to have access to more oxygen during MDI inhalation.

“Normally, if patients are short of breath and need oxygen, we cannot use a spacer since it will be exposing everyone to the aerosol. Physicians from the Faculty of Medicine, Thammasat University, and Plastics Institute of Thailand’s engineers brainstormed and invented the Thai Kit Spacer COVID-19 Model with an oxygen tube. We are currently producing them for distribution to hospitals across the country. Our target is to produce and give away 10,000 pieces,” said Dr. Orapan.

Dr. Orapan added that earlier they had been working with the Plastics Institute of Thailand, the Export-Import Bank of Thailand (EXIM Bank), and Dow Thailand Group in making and distributing Thai Kit Spacer. The plastics institute is currently collaborating with private companies in commercializing the device, which will make them become more accessible. The main focus of the invention is that the device has to be durable, lightweight, easy to carry, and most importantly, inexpensive. Another important quality is that the material used in producing this spacer doesn’t have a problem with static electricity allow the medication to evenly distribute in the spacer and not stick to the spacer itself.

Dr. Orapan set the goal to create “Spacer for All”, a good-quality, safe, and affordable medical equipment for all Thai people.