Part toy, part medical device, the Funhaler, pictured above, uses a hooting whistle and spinning disks to try to make a sometimes-onerous daily drug regimen something a child with asthma might look forward to. Thirty to 70 percent of children with asthma don't take their medication on time, a failing that increases their risk of an emergency.
"It's boring being medicated with conventional inhalers," said inventor Paul Watt, director of research and development for Visiomed Group Ltd, Australia, whose son has asthma. "It's frightening sometimes. And it frustrates parents, like it did me."
The Funhaler, recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration but not yet available for sale in the United States, comes with detachable toys that are activated by inhaling. Watt's 2003 study of 32 preschoolers -- "the toughest age for compliance," he said -- in the British journal Archives of Disease in Children credited the Funhaler with a 60 percent increase in compliance and found its effectiveness equal to that of standard inhalers. But the best result? "Children were asking to be medicated," said Watt.
-- Matt McMillen