The purpose of this review is to discuss the roles of cascade impactor (CI) data in inhaler assessment and to examine the relationship between aerodynamic particle size distribution (APSD) and the clinical response to inhaled drugs. A systematic literature search of studies linking APSD to clinical response was undertaken. Two distinct roles for CI-generated data were identified: (1) the control of inhaler/drug product quality; and (2) the provision of data that may be predictive of particle deposition in the respiratory tract. Method robustness is required for the former application, combined with simplicity in operation, resulting in rudimentary attempts to mimic the anatomy of the respiratory tract. The latter necessitates making the apparatus and its operation more closely resemble patient use of the inhaler. A CI cannot perfectly simulate the respiratory tract, since it operates at constant flow rate, while the respiratory cycle has a varying flow-time profile. On the basis of a review of studies linking APSD to clinical response of inhaled drugs, it is concluded that attempts to use CI-generated data from quality control testing to compare products for bioequivalence are likely to have only limited success, as links between laboratory-measured APSD, particle deposition in the respiratory tract, and clinical response are not straightforward.
Keywords: Cascade impactor, inhaler testing, clinical response