Shocking Study shows the US is slipping in asthma control

Asthma is a common illness, affecting over 300 million people worldwide. In the US approximately 10% of children and 8% of US adults have the disease. Despite the fact that it is treatable, approximately 180,000 people die as a result of asthma each year, 4,000 of them in America.

Maybe now we know why.  According to results of a first of its kind survey, 49% of children and adults with persistent asthma are not using controller medications.

The results of the 1,000 asthma sufferer CHOICE (Comprehensive Survey of Healthcare Professionals and Asthma Patients Offering Insight on Current Treatment Gaps and Emerging Device Options) survey were published in the March 2012 issue of Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

Results demonstrate the current extent of poor asthma control in the US, and shows the country has fallen far short of national asthma management targets.

Among the most shocking results:

  • 79% of patients had persistent asthma and should have been on controllers.
  • Of the 51% on controllers, 86% were inadequately treated i.e., their asthma was not well or very poorly controlled.

Patients with severe persistent and uncontrolled asthma frequently reported feeling isolated, fearful, depressed and tired.

Uncontrolled asthma is severely affecting patients’ quality of life and increases the risk of emergency department visits and hospitalizations,” said co-author and SRxA Advisor Michael Blaiss, MD. “Asthma sufferers need to schedule regular office visits, talk with their allergists about preventative controller therapy and then use those medications regularly.”

Research shows that asthma patients under the care of an allergist have better outcomes at less cost because of fewer emergency care visits, fewer hospitalizations, reduced lengths of hospital stays, fewer days missed from work or school, increased productivity in their work and personal lives, greater satisfaction with their care and an improved quality of life.

So if you have asthma, suspect you have asthma or know someone with asthma, please get it treated. Most asthma deaths are largely preventable. Together we can help to change the awful results seen in this study.

Bad Breath? – Doctors speak doctor while Patients speak patient

While attending the ACAAI congress in Phoenix, SRxA’s Word on Health learned that despite the increasing availability of effective treatments, overall asthma care in the U.S. is suboptimal.

In a survey of almost 4,000 asthma patients, doctors and members of the general population, 71% of the asthma patients had disease that was either not well or very poorly controlled according to definitions established by current guidelines.

On the other hand, the majority of asthma patients said they thought their disease was well controlled, suggesting that many patients don’t understand the meaning of the term “adequate asthma control”.

The so-called Asthma Insight and Management study was a national survey of three populations, with responses from 2,500 asthma patients age 12 and older, 1,090 adults in the general population, and 309 health care providers.  It was conducted by SRxA Advisors, Michael Blaiss,  Eli Meltzer and colleagues, Drs Kevin Murphy, Robert Nathan and Stuart Stoloff

Among some of the more surprising results, researchers found:

  • 64% of asthma patients thought their disease was well controlled because they had two or more months between exacerbations.
  • 61% thought their asthma was well controlled because they had only been forced to go to the emergency room for asthma once in the previous year.
  • Only 6% agreed their disease was either not well or very poorly controlled.
  • Only 48% of patients reported that they followed the advice of their doctor.

Despite this, the disease burden is high.  63% of the patients said their asthma persisted throughout the year and 41% reported that the illness interfered with their life “some” or “a lot.”  Compared with the general population, Blaiss and colleagues found, asthma patients reported poorer general health, greater limitations on activity, and taking more than twice as many sick and disability days off work.

According to another SRxA Advisor, Dr. John Oppenheimer,  the study confirms what many clinicians have long suspected. He told us, “While there are many possible causes for suboptimal management, one of the problems is doctors speak doctor and patients speak patient.”

Both physicians and the manufacturers of asthma drugs need to make more of an effort to understand why asthma patients don’t use medications as directed  in order to help them improve both their health and quality of life.

What are your thoughts on this?  Word in Health is waiting to hear from you.