Urgent warning to millions with asthma over fears people are using the WRONG inhalers | The Sun

Urgent warning to millions with asthma over fears people are using the WRONG inhalers | The Sun


MORE than 5.4 million people in the UK live with asthma.

And they are today being warned that they could be using the wrong inhaler, which could land them in hospital.

Asthma is a common lung condition that causes symptoms such as coughing, wheezing or feeling breathless. 

People with the condition will usually be given a preventative inhaler (brown), and a reliever inhaler (blue).

It is best controlled by regular use of the preventer inhaler, called a corticosteroid inhaler, which lowers the risk of asthma symptoms and attacks.

The reliever inhaler is used to stop symptoms when they occur, and are known as ‘SABA’ (short-acting beta-agonist) inhalers.

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Research has previously shown that it’s common for people with asthma to overuse their reliever inhaler.

This is defined as having six or more prescriptions per year.

Relying on the reliever inhaler, instead of using corticosteroids to prevent symptoms, is linked to poor asthma control and an increased risk of severe asthma attacks and hospital admissions. 

Overuse of reliever inhalers has been found as a common feature in people who have died of the condition, according to The National Review of Asthma Deaths in 2014.

Researchers at Queen Mary’s Clinical Effectiveness Group (CEG) wanted to see if this contributed to higher rates of asthma hospital admissions in East London.

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Hospitalisation is 14 per cent above the national average.

The team analysed over 700,000 anonymised patient records at 117 GP practices in East London. 

They found that 26 per cent of patients with asthma are still overprescribed SABA inhalers.

Out of this group, a quarter of those were also underusing preventative inhalers.

GPs were overprescribing to as much as 60 per cent of their patients in some areas.

Anna De Simoni, Lead author and GP and Clinical Lecturer in Primary Care at Queen Mary University of London, said there was “significant room for improvement”.

“Working with patients to improve regular use of preventative inhalers should be central to reducing asthma-related hospital admissions,” Dr De Simoni said.

“We calculated that supporting patients who use more than 12 SABA inhalers per year to reduce their use to 4-12 could result in 70 per cent fewer asthma-related hospital admissions in that group.

“There is also a need to provide GPs and pharmacists with the right tools to support patients to do this.”

Paul Pfeffer, co-author and Consultant Respiratory Physician with special interest in asthma at Barts Health NHS Trust, said: "There is an ongoing major burden of inappropriate and dangerous rescue inhaler overuse in asthma.

"Our paper highlights the complexity of the problem with multiple reasons patients are over-prescribed SABA inhalers.

“The findings are a call for more detailed research into interventions to reduce inappropriate SABA overuse in different patient groups."

Are you using the right inhaler?

A preventer inhaler is given to almost everyone with asthma.

The NHS says: “Tell a GP or asthma nurse if you have to use your reliever inhaler three or more times a week. They may suggest additional treatment, such as a preventer inhaler.”

Asthma UK & Lung says that using your preventer inhaler more than three times a week is a sign that your condition is not under control.

It says: “You only use it when your symptoms are getting worse or you’re having an asthma attack. Your reliever inhaler treats asthma symptoms quickly when they come on.

“If you’re regularly using your reliever inhaler, and relying on it to manage symptoms, you’re more at risk of an asthma attack.

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“This is because your reliever doesn’t deal with the underlying inflammation in your airways. 

“See your GP or asthma nurse to talk about managing your asthma better with a good preventer inhaler routine.”

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