Pediatric Wheezers not such Wizards with Puffers

Regular readers of SRxA’s  Word on Health already know that asthma is the most common chronic childhood disease in the U.S. Direct asthma-related healthcare costs are upwards of $ 6 billion a year and lost productivity costs associated with working parents caring for children who miss school, costs a further billion. Given this huge financial burden we were shocked to learn that fewer than one in 10 children with asthma use their inhalers correctly.

While children have more success with newer inhaler designs, at best, only one child in four gets it completely right, according to the findings published in the journal Pediatrics.

Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Eshelman School of Pharmacy studied 296 patients aged 8 to 16 years old who used four different devices to manage their asthma.

The devices were:

  • metered-dose inhaler (commonly called a puffer)
  • diskus, (a dry-powder inhaler delivering Advair)
  • turbuhaler (a dry-powder inhaler delivering Pulmicort or Symbicort)
  • peak-flow meter, which does not deliver a drug but is used to measure lung function to determine if medicine is needed

Only 8% of children in the study performed all of the metered-dose inhaler steps correctly. Older children were more likely than younger children to get more of the metered-dose inhaler steps correct. With a diskus, 22% of children performed all steps correctly, and 15.6% performed all of the turbuhaler steps correctly. Children using a peak-flow meter did so correctly 24% of the time.

The researchers also found that the majority of health-care providers who participated in the study did not demonstrate or assess children’s use of the four devices during pediatric asthma visits.

It is crucial that health-care providers not only show a child how to use an inhaler correctly but also have the child demonstrate the device in front of a physician or pharmacist,” said lead investigator Betsy Sleath Ph.D. “Pediatric practices are extremely busy places so we need innovative ways to demonstrate and assess device technique among asthmatic children.”

Improper use of inhalers and other asthma medication devices can lead to poor control of the condition, more hospitalizations and increased health-care costs.

SRxA’s team of leading asthma experts can help design programs to teach healthcare professionals how to teach patients about their asthma therapy.  These validated programs have been shown to dramatically increase compliance and adherence.  Contact us today to learn more.

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