Asthma UK is launching a major campaign to help identify people with uncontrolled asthma- people who have had two or more courses of steroid tablets in the last year – so they can be urgently assessed and considered for referral for treatment with one of the new, potentially life-changing biologic treatments.
Steroid tablets are an essential and effective treatment but when taken long-term, or repeatedly, they can have toxic and debilitating side-effects including diabetes, osteoporosis and increased risk of respiratory infections. Our survey of over 3,000 people with asthma revealed the huge toll they are taking on people’s everyday lives:
- A third reported mental health problems including mood swings, anxiety/depression, confusion/problems with memory and even suicidal thoughts
- One in five said that the side effects impacted on their ability to work
- Almost a quarter said the side effects make them feel less confident in themselves
- A fifth said the side effects make it difficult to do everyday tasks such as cooking and cleaning
Repeated courses of steroid tablets can be a sign that someone has severe asthma, the most life-threatening form of the condition, which currently affects around 200,000 people in the UK. The good news is that there are new treatments, called biologics, available on the NHS for people with a diagnosis of severe asthma, which can halve the number of asthma attacks and even stop the need for steroid tablets.
Asthma UK’s new report, ‘Do no harm: safer and better treatment options for people with asthma’, reveals that around 46,000 people are still missing out on this life-changing treatment because they haven’t been properly diagnosed with severe asthma. With NHS services continuing to be stretched during COVID-19, it is even more vital that people with severe asthma are put on the right treatments so they can stay well and out of hospital.
The NHS will continue to be under immense strain as the pandemic continues. However, by identifying and referring people who may have severe asthma to get a more accurate diagnosis, people can be supported to stay well and out of hospital during this challenging time.
To help with this, NICE/SIGN are being called to urgently develop a single comprehensive severe asthma guideline that includes clear referral criteria so healthcare professionals know when to refer and what treatments are available.
A new interactive tool to empower people with uncontrolled asthma to take charge of their condition and know when to ask for a referral to specialist care.