2.5 million, or 1 in 8 Americans, have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a disease that makes breathing difficult.

A team of physician-scientists has developed a non-invasive device that helps patients with their breathing without medication.

With COPD, less air flows in and out of the airways. The tiny air sacs in the lungs are damaged and cannot stretch and shrink.

“The main cause of breathlessness in COPD is something called air trapping, or dynamic hyperinflation,” said Dr. Panos, Pulmonologist at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. “What that is, is an inability to exhale all of the air that one takes in.”

Treatments include a rescue inhaler and steroids. Patients also learn a special breathing technique called pursed lip breathing.

“They learned something called pursed lip breathing, which is breathing out through pursed lips to create that back pressure,” Dr. Panos said.

Dr. Panos and his colleagues developed a hands-free device called the Positive Expiratory Pressure, or Pep Buddy, which helps patients simulate pursed lip breathing.

“It’s just simply placed in the mouth, one breathes in through the nose, and then out through the device,” Dr. Panos said. “That resistance to airflow creates the back pressure, which relieves the air trapping and dynamic hyperinflation.”

The researchers say there are many benefits of slow breathing and exhalation.

Dr. Panos and his colleagues developed the Pep Buddy with help from a University of Cincinnati department that provides a launchpad for entrepreneurs.

The researchers are in the process of obtaining a class one approval from the FDA, which is for medical devices that are considered low risk for consumer use.

Since the device is considered low risk, it can be available for purchase before it gets FDA approval.

The pep buddy is currently being sold for $25 and is not covered by insurance.

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