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Experts and Policymakers Demand Changes to the Current Approach to Asthma Management

Trend and direction of asthma therapy viewed as incorrect and not reflective of current medical knowledge

Clinical and regulatory changes must be made to asthma management to ensure it reflects current scientific understanding of the disease, and the needs of patients, say asthma experts. These conclusions form part of the ‘Brussels Declaration’, defining changes that need to be made in order to improve outcomes for asthma patients, developed by leading asthma experts, together with EU policymakers, regulators and patient groups attending the ‘Summit for Change in Asthma Management’, which took place at the EU Parliament on 18th and 19th October 2006.

Key areas for action identified during the Summit, hosted by Liberal Democrat MEP, Liz Lynne (UK) and co-chaired by leading asthma expert Professor Stephen Holgate of the University of Southampton (UK) include: a rapid need to update national and international clinical guidelines on the treatment of asthma, including the EMEA Guidance Note on Asthma; ensure all patients and professionals fully understand the current thinking behind asthma management; inclusion of wider measures of asthma control in studies and practice, which take into account patient quality of life. In addition, the EU Parliament was encouraged with making asthma, its research and its management a political priority through mechanisms such as the European Parliament Initiative Report.

Professor Holgate defines the Summit and the resulting Declaration as a great step forward for asthma management and patients: “This meeting has been extremely valuable as it has allowed health care professionals, scientists and patient groups to work directly with regulators and policymakers to establish where and how improvements need to be made in order for asthma patients to receive optimum treatment. However, our work does not end here; it is vital that all of the actions agreed upon are also acted upon to ensure asthma patients benefit fully.”

Current Thinking

During the Summit various clinicians presented information which showed asthma to be a systemic inflammatory disease which affects more than just the lungs and thus the need to control inflammation is essential. However, current guidelines and practice are based on a historical view of diagnosis and treatment of asthma which only measure airflow in the lungs and so may not truly capture whether the inflammation is under control or whether other parts of the body are affected by the same type of inflammation. Furthermore, data also shows that patients respond differently to treatments and one option may not suit all. Therefore treatment should be individualised to meet the needs of the patient. Unfortunately, current methods of assessing therapies that influence the wider aspects of allergic inflammation are not reflected in guidelines which currently are restrictive in their recommendations and limit the choice of treatments available for clinicians to choose from.

The Cost of Asthma

It is estimated that over 30 million people in Europe have asthma and the number is rising.1 In addition, deaths from asthma have reached 180,000 annually 2 and the economic cost of asthma in Europe is thought to be in the region of €17 billion per year with an annual productivity loss estimated at €9.8bn.3 The economic and social costs of asthma are largely due to uncontrolled disease, and are likely to rise as its prevalence, complexity and severity increases4 and therefore improvement in disease control would substantially reduce costs.

Rosie Allan | alfa
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