Chest doc’s efficient ventohaler
Having bagged two President’s awards for his inventions and now chosen as one of the shortlisted nominees for the Ray Award, in honour of visionary scientist Dr. Ray Wijewardene, Dr. Anil Goonetilleke’s vast knowledge and creativity have seen him persevere in the field with the aim of benefiting the public.
“I wanted to make a difference and give something useful and affordable to the people of my country,” says Dr. Goonetilleke. A General Physician, Dr. Goonetilleke has always had an avid interest in chest medicine. This led to him working in a Chest Unit in the UK for his MRCP.
“It is there that the idea of designing an inhaler occurred to me,” he explains. Therefore, he set to work inventing a dry powder inhaler ‘Ventohaler’ in collaboration with the Department of Mechanical Engineering of the University of Moratuwa. In addition, he developed a computer programme with the help of this Department which predicts the performance of an inhaler when the measurements of the inhaler are fed into the programme.
So what is it that is so unique about this inhaler that earned him the President’s award? The ‘Ventohaler’ is designed in such a way that an air flow is created through the sides, which results in a cyclonic movement within the inhaler when the patient inhales. This allows the patient to take most of the dose and results in a substantial deposit of the medicine in the lungs.
“While the minimum legal amount that is required to be deposited by an inhaler is 10%, the ‘Ventohaler’ ensures that 17.9% is deposited,” explains Dr. Goonetilleke.
The ‘Ventohaler’ was tested along with the other inhaler devices using a cascade impactor (Artificial lung) and was proved to be highly efficient. The inhalers also have Stainless Steel (SS) Pins, contain only one puncher and use food grade plastic materials.
“The inhaler has been patented,” says Dr. Goonetilleke adding that it has been in the market for the past one and a half years. He went on to say that they supply most of the government orders too.
Dr. Goonetilleke has contributed much to the medical and even economic sectors of Sri Lanka through his inventions. In 2001, he won the President’s award for inventing an effective mixing method for asthma drugs using a unique formulation.
To produce particles for inhalation, drug powders for use in inhalation systems are micronised to less than five microns, as larger particles would stop at the throat. When these particles are made into fine particles, much energy is stored in them. These high energy powders however, have poor flow properties. To remedy this, these poorly flowing drug particles are mixed with larger ‘carrier’ particles which improve powder flow and release of the drug from the inhalation device.
Thus, this mix contains carrier particles and the active drug. While the active drug contains very fine, minute particles the carrier particles are larger in size. Therefore, in order to prevent the active particle from stopping at the throat with the larger carrier particle, another fine particle is added to separate these two particles during inhalation.
These special particles added reduces adhesion between carrier and drug and facilitates release during inhalation allowing the micronised drug to reach the lung while the carrier stops at the throat.
These drugs, which are manufactured by Lina (Anil read backwards!) Manufacturers and marketed by Akbar Pharmaceuticals Pvt. Ltd. are now being exported to India as well bringing an economic gain to Sri Lanka. Lina Manufacturers is the first Sri Lankan formulation, development and manufacturing centre for respiratory products.
The products of Lina Manufacturers are Salbuvent 200, Salbuvent 400, Flutivent 250, Flutivent 500, Beclovent 200, Beclovent 400 and the ‘Ventohaler’.
Papers and posters relating to Dr. Goonetilleke‘s inventions have been presented to the Journal ‘ENGINEER’ of the Institution of Engineers Sri Lanka (IESL), at the ‘European Respiratory Society’ (ERS) 19th annual congress held in Vienna, Austria, ‘ERU’ 14th Annual Symposium, Sri Lanka, and ‘Journal of Aerosol Medicine’ (JAM) from the International Society for Aerosols in Medicine (ISAM), 16th International Congress held in Tours, France.
“We are currently working on nasal sprays and are on the lookout for newer discoveries,” says Dr. Goonetilleke, full of enthusiasm.
Ray, the man and the award
From engineering to aeronautics, sustainable agriculture to renewable energy, Ray Wijewardene was a man of many interests, talents and innovative creations. Pioneering the world’s first two wheeled tractor – the Landmaster – is just one among his many achievements.
The Ray Wijewardene Charitable Trust was established in January 2011, with the aim of promoting and sustaining the vision of Ray Wijewardene.
‘The Ray’ award, presented by the Ray Wijewardene Charitable Trust in collaboration with the Sri Lanka Inventors Commission and Commercial Bank is a biennial life time award with the view of helping a recognised inventor to commercialise his or her invention. Six inventors have been shortlisted for the award and the award ceremony will be held mid October .
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