Nationwide asthma study from Propeller Health demonstrates clear link between air pollution and rescue inhaler use

Research from UW-Madison, UC Berkeley and Propeller Health suggests that reducing fine particulate matter concentration would generate significant annual cost savings in respiratory care

MADISON, Wis., November 26, 2018, /PRNewswire/ — New research from Propeller Health, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of California, Berkeley, is the first nationwide study to show an association between daily air pollution and rescue inhaler use using data obtained objectively from digital medicines.

The study, conducted from 2012 to 2017 on more than 2,800 people with asthma and published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, uses one of the largest nationwide datasets to assess the relationship between air pollution and asthma symptoms.

Unlike previous studies, which have largely relied on hospitalization or mortality data to assess the health impact of pollution, this study used nationwide data from Propeller’s digital medicine database to analyze the level of fine particulate matter at the exact time and location of a person’s rescue inhaler use.

Propeller’s leading digital medicines consist of small sensors that easily attach to consumers’ existing inhalers. The sensors are paired with a mobile app to automatically track medication use, capture environmental data and provide personal feedback and insights that help individuals manage and cope with symptoms.

The study found:

  • Rescue inhaler use increased significantly along with increases in daily fine particulate matter exposure
    Pollution increases had the greatest impact on rescue inhaler use in the summer
  • Lower-income neighborhoods experienced higher pollution exposure and higher rescue medication use on average, compared to higher-income neighborhoods
  • A nationwide 1 μg/m3 (or 12 percent) reduction in fine particulate matter concentration — less than the nationwide 18 percent reduction attained between 2010 and 2017, according to the EPA — would statistically generate $350 million annually in economic benefits

“This research is groundbreaking in its ability to explore the impact of air pollution down to the time, date and location that the person experienced asthma symptoms, particularly for symptoms that don’t necessarily result in hospitalization,” said Austin Williams, PhD and lead author of the study. “With data generated from digital medicines, we can analyze exacerbations of chronic disease that were previously unobserved to anyone but the patient or their provider.”

Participants were eligible for the study if they had a self-reported or physician diagnosis of asthma, and participants were enrolled in Propeller through a variety of different channels, including in-clinic enrollment, wellness fairs, health plan programs, community events and social media. Each participant received a kit that included a digital sensor to attach to their inhaler, which communicated medication reminders and insights on their condition to their smartphone.

About Propeller
Propeller Health is a leading digital therapeutics company dedicated to the development and commercialization of measurably better medicines. Propeller creates products to more effectively manage disease and improve clinical outcomes for patients across a range of therapeutic areas through connectivity, analytics, and companion digital experiences. The Propeller platform is used by patients, physicians and healthcare organizations in the US, Europe and Asia. For more information, visit