World Asthma Day: "You Can Control Your Asthma"

World Asthma Day: "You Can Control Your Asthma"

05.01.12 | By Preet Bilinski

Today is World Asthma Day, an effort to raise awareness about asthma and improve asthma care for patients. Asthma is a chronic disease that affects people all over the world. It imposes a growing burden on society, with prevalence on the rise and an annual economic cost of $19.7 billion.

We talked with Dave Allen, Senior Vice President of the Respiratory Therapy Area at GlaxoSmithKline on why asthma education and care is so important.

Why is asthma awareness/education important?

The numbers associated with asthma help make the case for continued awareness and education. Today, asthma is one of the most common chronic diseases in the world. Globally more than 300 million people are affected by asthma and that number is expected to increase to 400 million by the year 2025. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control estimates that there are 19 million people who have asthma, including about 7 million children.

Even though the number of people with asthma is quite high, there is a perception that asthma is a disease that's under control; in other words, one that does not require further government or healthcare attention, and one in which the current standard of care is perceived as being as good as it gets.

Some people with asthma symptoms may never receive a diagnosis of asthma, and therefore will not have the opportunity to receive asthma treatment and achieve good control. Various factors such as poor access to medical care, under-recognition by health professionals, lack of awareness among patients, and overlap of asthma symptoms with those of other diseases contribute to under-diagnosis of asthma.

It is also important that people with asthma understand their condition and how to control it. Asthma that is not well controlled has a real impact on patients' lives. A recent European survey showed that:

  • 82% of patients with asthma that is not well-controlled wake up at night, at least once a week (compared to 31% for well-controlled)
  • 73% of patients with asthma that is not well-controlled are short of breath at least 3 times each week (compared to 5% for well-controlled)
  • Patients whose asthma is not well-controlled visited the emergency room or were hospitalised more than 50% more frequently than well-controlled patients

There is still much that can be done to improve society's understanding of asthma and what can be done to control it.

With proper diagnosis, education, and treatment, the great majority of asthma patients can achieve and maintain good control of their disease. When asthma is under control, patients can live full and active lives. If a patient has good asthma control they will:

  • Have no symptoms at night and few symptoms during the day
  • Be able to do normal activities with minimal restrictions
  • Not need to take their rescue treatment more than twice a week
  • Have no need to visit the hospital or emergency room

What are some of the challenges to finding a cure for asthma? Why is it more important than ever to find effective treatments for asthma?

Although huge strides have been made in the treatment of asthma, its incidence is growing and it is still having a profoundly damaging impact on the lives of hundreds of millions of people. A cure for asthma does not yet exist and despite improvements in the way respiratory disease is managed, it continues to pose a significant burden on patients and healthcare systems. International guidelines state that achieving and maintaining asthma control should be possible in most patients, meaning they would enjoy a near normal life. Yet, recent data* show that 57% of asthma patients do not have a good level of control of their disease. There remain considerable unmet needs which, if addressed, could lead to further improvements in patient quality of life.

GSK has a unique 40-year heritage in respiratory-delivering, pioneering science that has advanced understanding and led to the discovery and development of respiratory medicines that have changed the lives of millions of patients worldwide. We are very committed to investing in further research to advance our understanding of this complex disease. We want to provide a choice of medicines and tailored tools and services that will really make a difference for asthma patients.

You can hear more about the progress being made in the lab from Dr. Steven Pascoe of GlaxoSmithKline.

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