Regular use of inhaled steroids cuts hospital admissions for asthma by a third

Regular use of inhaled steroids cuts hospital admissions for severe asthma by almost a third, reveals research in Thorax.

Most previous research has looked at the short-term effects of inhalers to prevent asthma attacks, but this Canadian study analysed data for asthma patients over a period of 22 years.

The study included all asthma patients aged 5 to 44 years of age between 1975 and 1991, who were part of the health insurance scheme provided for all residents in the province of Saskatchewan.

Records were analysed for all 30,569 patients, from the start of asthma treatment, and separately for 3,894 admissions, and 1886 re-admissions, for asthma. All participants were monitored one year after they entered health insurance coverage up to 1997, until 54 years of age, or death, whichever came first.

Just over 42 in every 1000 patients a year were admitted to hospital. But regular use of inhaled steroids cut overall admission rates by 31 per cent, and re-admission rates by 39 per cent. And the authors calculated that for every 1000 asthma patients, consistent use of preventer inhalers could prevent five admissions and 27 re-admissions a year.

The rate reductions continued beyond the first four years of monitoring, but only if inhaled steroids were regularly and consistently used, the authors note, pointing out that only between 15 to 20 per cent of patients prescribed preventer inhalers actually used them properly.

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