Spotlight on Asthma

Child-Friendly Nebulizers

A growing trend in the asthma market is the development of child-friendly nebulizers. These are standard nebulizers on the inside, but on the outside they are shaped to appeal to young children. Two manufacturers leading this trend are Medquip and Graham-Fields’s John Bunn line of products.

Medquip offers four different designs: a duck, panda, penguin and a building block system. John Bunn offers penguin, train and bus designs. Other designs are appearing on the market with some frequency, and clearly there’s a reason for the growth of this trend in the last five years.

“We had received requests for these designs from many of our customers,” explains Angela Mayfield, director of marketing, Graham-Field. “What we have found is people do prefer these designs and we cannot keep them in stock. They have surpassed our expectations, even the higher-priced train model. In fact, we can sell just as many of those as our lower-priced models.”

A shape is not just a shape. There are some differences between the designs; for example, Medquip’s penguin comes with an igloo case, and the panda has a backpack carrier. Age is also a factor — the building blocks are designed for the 5-plus market. All of Medquip’s nebulizers come with a pacifier, for neo-natal use for nasal inhalation, as well as an adult mask and a carrying case. John Bunn’s nebulizers come with masks, the neb medication cup, mouthpieces and tubing. The bus design has a storage component where all the pieces can be stored. Subtle differences help differentiate the units as the market continues to grow.

Besides the obvious appeal of a cute design, the goal, of course, is ultimately to benefit the end-user. “You want to offer something that will help the child to relax and bring comfort to the child. Compliance then becomes a much easier task,” says Craig Bright, president, Medquip. “We’ve heard stories from mothers where the child is very protective of their penguin nebulizer and won’t let other kids around it. And when we were testing the building block system, the child wanted to play with it even when they weren’t using it for treatment.”

Working parents derive another benefit from the design, adds Mayfield. Many children need daily treatment. If they are in a setting outside the home, such as daycare, the design keeps them focused and relaxed especially when someone other than the parent is administering the treatment.

While no one was willing to pinpoint the exact reason behind the success of these designs, Mayfield suggests that parents want to help their kids in any way possible, and if these nebulizers are a useful tool, then parents are willing to pay.

“This is an interesting niche where reimbursement isn’t as important. Nebulizers are price sensitive and only reimbursable up to a point; so, they end up as an out-of-pocket expense for the beneficiary.” The different designs offered represent different price points and having a variety helps, says Mayfield. Bright agrees that reimbursement is a big factor in their success: “So many dealers have got out of the Medicare market and into Medicaid.”

Both manufacturers are keeping a close eye on future developments in the pediatric market. Look for products geared to the adolescent market as well as more gender-specific gear. It’s probably also a safe bet to assume new — and even cuter — designs will be coming to the market soon.

This article originally appeared in the Respiratory Management Jan/Feb 2007 issue of HME Business.

About the Author

Deborah Cooper is the former Respiratory Management editor.

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