The Asthma Society of Ireland has released research conducted by hmR Ireland which looks at the over-reliance on reliever inhaler medication by people with asthma in each county in Ireland. Reliever inhalers, which most people will recognise as the blue inhalers, if over-used, are strongly linked with severe asthma exacerbations and asthma related deaths.
Using three or more reliever inhalers a year indicates a person is at risk of a severe asthma exacerbation while the use of twelve or more a year is an indication someone is at risk of an asthma-related death.
In the year of diagnosis, Mayo had the second lowest rate of reliever inhaler overuse in the country at 16%. In the year after diagnosis, that number doubled to 38% of people who overused their reliever inhaler. By year five, 45% of people with asthma in Mayo were overusing their reliever inhaler.
The results also found:
Three in ten use more than 12 reliever inhalers a year, putting them at risk of an asthma-related death
Seven in ten are using more than three reliever inhalers a year, putting them at risk of an asthma attack (or some form of asthma exacerbation )
In the year after diagnosis, 30% children aged 0-17 are overusing their reliever inhaler
In the year after diagnosis, 60% people aged 50 or over are overusing their reliever inhaler
Sarah O’Connor, CEO of the Asthma Society of Ireland, said: “The hmR research revealed that a huge proportion of people in all age groups are overusing their reliever inhalers in every county throughout Ireland, putting them at risk of an asthma severe exacerbation or asthma related death.
"If you are using your reliever inhaler several times each week, you are over-reliant on it and your asthma is not controlled. The exception to this is people with asthma who participate in sport/exercise, where it is still recommended you use your reliever inhaler prior to warming up before exercising.”
The Asthma Society is calling on all people who are over-reliant on their reliever inhaler to act now to get their asthma in control. People with asthma should take the following actions:
Download an Asthma Action Plan from asthma.ie Complete your Asthma Action Plan with your healthcare professional and speak specifically about your usage of your asthma medications
Call the Asthma Society’s free Asthma and COPD Adviceline on 1800 44 54 64 to help you understand asthma, its triggers and how to manage it, and to better understand your asthma control
Medical Director of the Asthma Society of Ireland, Marcus Butler, said: “A reliever inhaler works within minutes to relieve asthma symptoms when they happen - it gives a short-lived improvement in symptoms, effectively just buying time, but can eventually fail to keep a patient safe from asthma if more appropriate and effective controller inhalers are not used on a daily basis. A controller inhaler works over a much longer duration than reliever inhalers to eventually ease the underlying airway inflammation which ultimately causes asthma symptoms. It prevents symptoms from arising several weeks and months down the road, as long as it is habitually taken.
"The UK’s National Review of Asthma Deaths report (2014 ) showed that there was evidence of excessive prescribing of reliever medication: 39% of those who died had been prescribed more than 12 short-acting reliever inhalers in the year before they died, and 4% had been prescribed more than 50 reliever inhalers. Those prescribed more than 12 reliever inhalers were likely to have had poorly controlled asthma.”