Unofficial colour code for inhalers should be formalised


By Nicola Garrett

10 Nov 2016

With more and more asthma and COPD inhalers flooding the market there is a pressing need to formalise the current, yet unofficial, colour coding convention for inhalers, a UK group of experts says.

This was particularly important for asthma reliever inhalers which are traditionally coloured blue, the UK inhaler group (UKIG) noted in its paper published in npj Primary Care Respiratory Medicine.

“With the increase in inhaler types available, there is concern that blue may be used for inhalers not designed for emergency relief, and other colours used for quick relief medications… this could mean patients reach for the wrong inhaler in an emergency,” they said.

The group conducted a survey of over 3,000 patients and clinicians and found that 89 per cent of patients and 95 per cent of healthcare professionals frequently referred to the colour of the inhaler when discussing reliever medication.

They noted that in the last couple of years two inhalers in the UK had been coloured blue despite not being licensed for the emergency relief of symptoms, they noted.

However, after significant lobbying from patient and professional organisations, both companies changed their device to a colour other than blue.

“Formalisation of this [colour] convention should be agreed, to promote patient safety, so that in future it would not be possible for a blue inhaler to obtain a license unless it is a reliever, and conversely that an inhaler that is not for rapid symptom relief will not be licensed if it is blue,” they concluded.

The UKIG is a coalition of not-for-profit organisations and professional societies with a common interest in promoting the correct use of inhaled therapies.

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