Poor asthma control is common, and increases the risk of flare ups requiring oral corticosteroids, hospitalisation or emergency department (ED) visits. Asthma is managed at 5% of GP encounters with children and 2% with adults, with a significant percentage of these encounters being due to emergency appointments relating to flare ups and poor asthma control. Deaths from asthma remain high in Australia compared with many other countries.
NPS Medicinewise in partnership with North Coast Medicare Local has launched a new educational program for health professionals titled “Exploring inhaled medicines use and asthma control. The program focuses on changes to the asthma guidelines from the Australian Asthma Handbook (AAH) updated in April 2014. You can order a free copy of the Quick Reference Guide from the National Asthma Council 03-99294333 or view the handbook online.
Local pharmacist, Sally Herbert has recently commenced educational visits to local practices delivering this national program. In addition to guideline changes, the program details that poor asthma control is often caused by poor adherence and/ or incorrect inhaler technique. Most patients can be controlled with low dose inhaled corticosteroid inhalers (ICS), and NPS has developed device specific checklists (see attachment) which should be considered before a step up in treatment is considered. This is contrary to most prescriptions being for medium to high strengths in adults and children being commenced on a combination product (such as Seretide or Symbicort) before being trialled on an ICS alone. In these cases, many children do not need preventer treatment. The new guidelines provide clear step wise instructions on stepping up and stepping down treatment which will be clearly detailed in the visit, as many patients on long term high dose treatment can be stepped down without compromising control.
Having an up to date Asthma Action Plan can help patients manage their symptoms and recognise worsening asthma. A number of templates can be found from the National Asthma Council and Asthma Australia.
To consolidate your knowledge of asthma and the new guidelines, NPS has a number of learning activities on their website and include: Interactive online case study, clinical e-audit, as well as links to asthma organisations and consumer information.
If you are interested in an educational visit or a case study meeting for your practice or RACF for the above program please contact:-