Asthma now a huge problem in Australia

A leading asthma expert has hit out at the poor methods of asthma treatment in Australia and the lack of education offered to patients in regards to each individual’s condition. Associate Professor and research leader at the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research, Helen Reddel, was commenting in the recent edition of ‘Australian Prescriber’.  She argued that medicines are wasted due to people not using them correctly and being prescribed higher doses than required.

Dr. Reddel commented: “Deaths from asthma have dramatically fallen in recent years, so it is often perceived as a commonplace and rarely serious condition. However, treatment of asthma in Australia is not optimal.”

“Many patients are still under-treated. More than half of people with asthma aged 15–34 years are dispensed preventive medications only once in a year, which indicates many people are not taking enough of these medicines to reduce the risk of asthma flare-ups.”

“On the other hand, many patients are being over-treated. The majority of preventer prescriptions for asthma in Australian adults are for the highest potency combination of an inhaled corticosteroid and long-acting beta2 agonist rather than a low-dose inhaled corticosteroid which alone should be sufficient for most patients. People with asthma should have their asthma control and risk factors reviewed once or twice a year, and have their treatment adjusted if necessary. Patients may also make short term adjustments for worsening asthma in accordance with their written action plan.”

Indeed this comes less than two weeks after it was reported that there has been an increase in child asthma-related deaths in Australia.  Over 2 million Australians suffer from asthma and this is one of the largest prevalence rates of any country around the world. Recently published information shows that deaths resulting from asthma have doubled in under-15 year olds in the last 6 years. The Australian Bureau of Statistics recorded 7 deaths in 2005/06 and then 17 deaths in 2009/10.

National Asthma Council Australia Chair Dr Noela Whitby had this to say on the matter: “This is the first time we have seen an increase in asthma-related deaths among children. It’s deeply concerning and should be a major wake-up call for parents.”

She further added: “It’s imperative that parents and carers of children with asthma take the necessary steps to ensure their child’s condition is controlled by implementing an ongoing asthma management program and following their doctor’s advice.”

Dr. Whitby is now concerned that parents are showing a degree of complacency, resulting in the recent increase in child fatalities. “Asthma can be fatal so all carers need to be vigilant and ensure they have an up to date written asthma action plan for their child and schedule regular reviews with their doctor.” The condition unfortunately cannot be cured, but at Medical Specialists Pharmacy we can help you to control your asthma and provide both blue (relievers) inhalers such as Ventolin and Salbutamol, and brown (preventers) inhalers such as Qvar Beclomethasone, Qvar Easi-Breathe, and Pulvinal Beclomethasone.

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