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Half of asthma patients don’t use inhalers properly — study

By Brontë H. Lacsamana, Reporter 

INHALED corticosteroids (ICS), or maintenance inhalers that serve as anti-inflammatory medicine for asthma patients, must be taken on a regular basis (instead of as needed) in order to manage asthma, according to a recent study by global pharmacology experts.  

The study, titled New Versus Old: The Impact of Changing Patterns of Inhaled Corticosteroid Prescribing and Dosing Regimens in Asthma Management, found that daily usage of ICS can reduce inflammation in the lungs, decreasing the number and severity of a patient’s asthma attacks.   

A common problem in treating asthma is that most patients who take ICS don’t actually take them as they’re meant to, said Dr. Dave Singh, a pharmacology professor from the University of Manchester.  

“Key issues are: one, are they using the inhaler properly? About half don’t. Inhaler devices are all different and the patient needs to be taught how to use them properly,” he said at a Sept. 23 virtual roundtable. “Two, half the patients miss doses. It’s called non-adherence or low adherence, something common in all conditions.”  

The modeling study, having looked at various studies on asthma and integrating their data, concluded that better inhaler usage and dosage is the key to managing asthma.  

Asthma, a chronic lung condition that involves the swelling of airways that makes it difficult to breathe, can be found in one in 11 Filipinos. This puts its prevalence in the country at 8.7%, based on data from the 2017 National Nutrition and Health Survey.  

Dr. Singh said that the idea behind studies like this is to come up with guidance for doctors, in the form of the therapeutic index which doctors use in their medical practice to educate patients on therapy, proper dosage, side effects, and the like.  

“In the Philippines, once experts have had a look at the data … then implementation can really begin because, though educational events will be part of it, to really achieve better healthcare will involve a partnership between doctors and patients,” he said.  

“What doctors need to do is very straightforward — form a partnership with patients to educate them about the benefits of proper treatment, and that needs time investment.”  

As opposed to the usual, flexible approach of using ICS on days with more symptoms or asthma attacks, daily treatment will be more preventive and beneficial for the patients in the long run.  

The study recommends the more regular approach for its long-term benefits, namely longer periods with a good level of disease control, Dr. Singh concluded.  

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