British Lung Foundation
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Spiriva Handihailer

There are times when sucking in on my handihailer that I can really get the capsule vibrating (with little real effort) and there are other times (more often than not unfortunately) that the vibration is quite subdued and inspiration is somewhat more laboured. I really feel good after the former and less so after the latter experience. Anyone else have this problem?

16 Replies


Yes I have and put it down to a faulty batch as I inhaled nothing and yet the capsule was empty! I have just thrown them away and got another out and used it instead.

Perhaps they have a machine fault if it isn't a localised problem then.

I will check back and see if you get more responses and if so then maybe we should report it to our local pharmacies?



Mark (BLF) commented on this the other day - they don't have capsules with nothing in, they would fail very strict quality control if any were empty.




Airbag recalls? Dreamliner batteries?..So much for quality control. 3 empty capsules in a week here. Other users have reported similar to me.


To follow up with a tip. If you tap the end of the capsule on a hard surface and then hold it up to a bright LED lamp you can see the powder inside... Or not. The powder takes up approx one sixth of the volume of the capsule..


Sometimes you can crack the capsule rather than punch a neat little hole in it. The gelatin it's made from is quite brittle. That can stop it from rattling.

Someone suggested giving the device a little tap before pressing the button, so it's sits centralised and isn't jammed in, which would stop it vibrating of course.

Actually, in the instructions it says to tap the handihaler and try sucking again if it didn't rattle. If in doubt, consult your GP.

I've just taken mine, you reminded me :) It rattled OK.

You also need to heed the warnings about keeping the capsules in the foil and only exposing one when you need it. The gelatin will start to degrade once exposed to air and that may be another reason they don't always rattle.

I think I read somewhere that a lady couldn't cope with the blister packs the capsules came in, so her grand-daughter would helpfully strip them all out and put them in an old pill bottle for her. Before she got to the end of the month the capsules were falling to bits.

Any bits of the capsule that you breathe in will dissolve harmlessly.


Sorry Gordon,

Not this time. I keep them in the pack religiously, only exposing one immediately prior to using it. I put it in the handihaler, give it a little shake to ensure its free, punch it and suck...nothing, nada. I take it out and it has two perfect holes but is clearly empty. It isn't in my lungs so where has it gone?

Not even a rabbit! lol



Empty capsules may not have been Gordon's experience, Lucky, but they certainly have been mine over the past 5 years. If you have opened the capsule before using it to inspect the content (or not) there can be no other explanation !


Thanks Dukes, I rest my case and will now bow out gracefully before I get in trouble for inciting an argument.


Peace be with you !


Yes,give it a good tap on the table,& when loading,pushing in the 2 sides,do so on the firm table,as holding in the air etc.the puncturing of the tab, can miss its mark.The comment of being careful where you keep the tabs,is a good one,keep away from heat & humidity etc,& dont go leaving in the car! (as I did once) Cheers Wendells xx

PS in using it,for a great number of years,have never come across an empty capsule,interesting!


Have you tried the Spiriver Respirmat device, it is so much easier to use as it fires out a mist that you inhale


Have never had a prob with mine,,,whoops told a lie,,pushed the bit on the side more than once,,and it blocked the flow..I rinse mine in cold water once every ten days or so,,air dry and it works fine..


Was prescribed Spiriva (Tiotropium Bromide) Even took one with water LOL, but after ~a year asked my doc if I could go back to Atrovent HFA (Ipratropium Bromide

which gave me better airflow; this after the discontinuation of Combivent due to propellent issues.


I have also had this problem in the past but found that if I pushed the pin in and held it there for 10 seconds there was no problem.

However I did have one batch where 2 of the capsules were not formed properly.


Hi Martin. I had a problem with my Spiriva handihaler the other day and put a question up about it, not sure if you've seen it but there may be some answers on there that will interest you Day 4 today and it worked OK again, and I did check the empty capsule when I'd finished and again saw a hint of white powder so that can be a check to see if it was empty or not. MickSterbs tip about holding up a new capsule to an LED light is a good one too.


Hi I have often had that problem with my Spiriva inhaler. I just throw away the capsule that's not working and use another one. I mentioned this problem of the odd empty capsule to my doctor and she now prescribes an extra box of capsules for me every now and again so that I always have spare ones.


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