Q&A with Jim Chiapetta, Co-Inventor of FLAIR Equine Nasal Strips
James R. Chiapetta, D.V.M., J.D., is the co-inventor of FLAIR Equine Nasal Strips and president of Flair, LLC, the company which manufactures and distributes the Strips throughout the world. Jim was an equine practitioner at Canterbury Downs in Minnesota with a focus on lameness, imaging and respiratory conditions. Jim left equine practice several years ago and now serves as Sr. Patent counsel for a major U.S. human medical device company. Prior to this Jim was a patent attorney at an international patent firm based in Minneapolis. Jim has sat on numerous company boards and currently is an advisor to veterinary and human medical product start-up companies and works with various universities and technology development groups to evaluate and incubate new technologies for the advancement of human and animal health.
Q & A with Jim Chiapetta, DVM, JD, President of Flair, LLC
What inspired you to develop FLAIR® Equine Nasal Strips?
Circa 1997, another vet, Dr. Ed Blach, and I were discussing the fact that no one had previously come up with a nasal strip for horses. We wondered why this was the case. Through dissections, we’d found that horses have a nasal valve (the narrowest part of the upper airway) similar to humans. We thought the tissue outside of the horse’s nasal passage could likely be supported with a product of this nature. Dr. Blach and I decided to develop FLAIR® Equine Nasal Strips to help horses breathe easier, and we also believed they would help reduce lung bleeding (Exercise Induced Pulmonary Hemorrhage or EIPH) in horses.
Can you explain how the FLAIR® Equine Nasal Strip works?
Horses only breathe through their noses during intensive exercise. The strip lies directly over the horse’s nasal passage. It has ‘lifting’ spring which supports the tissue, similar to a splint. The strip helps hold the tissue in place so it’s not sucked in as the horse breathes in.
A physics law known as Poiseuille’s Law states that the resistance of airflow varies as a function of tube diameter–this supports the idea that if we enlarge the diameter of the nasal passage, even slightly, the horse will be able to breathe more easily.
When a horse is running, 20% of his energy is used by the diaphragm to bring air into the lungs. If a horse breathes easier, less energy is required to bring in air. In humans, the energy that is saved is available for the skeletal muscles. While this hasn’t been proven yet, it is believed to be the same situation in horses. However, eight clinical studies on FLAIR® Strips have shown that the strips help reduce bleeding in horses (EIPH) and reduce energy consumption.
Which type of equine athletes can benefit from using FLAIR® Equine Nasal Strips?
Flair was designed for horses that work hard—such as race horses and barrel racing horses, but horses used in other disciplines can benefit from them as well. In dressage, when a horse is tucked up, the horse’s head carriage constricts breathing, so the nasal strips can be beneficial for those horses as well. Even though the strips work on the nasal passage, when airflow from the upper airway is constricted, anything that helps airflow will benefit the horse.
Do you believe FLAIR® Equine Nasal Strips can eliminate the need for drugs like Lasix in horse racing?
The strips certainly offer an alternative to the drug, Lasix. Several studies have been performed comparing strips to Lasix in horses with EIPH. It was found that during maximal exercise, FLAIR® Strips and Lasix were equally effective at reducing EIPH.
Besides, EIPH, are there any other equine conditions with which Flair nasal strips can help?
The strips can help with roarers (Left Recurrent Laryngeal Hemiplegia). While no clinical studies have been done in this area, many riders have reported that the strips have been particularly effective if surgery has been performed and the horse is still making noise. I’ve also heard success stories of trail horses with mild heaves benefitting from wearing the strips.
If a horse has any type of upper airway condition, they will most likely benefit from using the strips while being ridden. Many people have reported that their horses seem more relaxed and focused while wearing the strips.