The Australian Asthma Handbook

Asthma Australia is pleased to welcome an update to The Australian Asthma Handbook (Version 2.1 2020), released by the National Asthma Council Australia. To help people with asthma know their options, we have developed a quick reference guide, view our consumer guide to the Handbook changes here.

The National Asthma Council Australia’s Asthma Handbook (Version 2.1 2020) sets the best practice guidelines for primary healthcare professionals to diagnose and manage asthma. For a person with asthma, the guidelines set the standard of medical care and treatments they can expect in the hospital, at their doctor, and at the pharmacy.

For health professionals wanting a more technical overview, you may be interested in the highlights version, found via the National Asthma Council Australia website. To access a quick overview of the changes for health professionals, click here.

Know your options mild asthmaNew treatment options for mild asthma

There has been an update to the way we approach treating mild asthma, with the inclusion of dual purpose reliever (budesonide/formoterol): which reinforces the importance of treating inflammation in asthma, relieving symptoms and reducing risk of serious asthma flare-ups.  

There are now three options to manage symptoms in mild asthma for adults and adolescents over 12 years in Australia. 

  1. Regular low-dose preventer plus blue/grey reliever as needed 
  2. Dual purpose reliever (budesonide/formoterolto be used as needed  
  3. Blue/grey reliever to be used as needed to treat symptoms 

Read more about dual purpose reliever here.

New medications


The integration of a dose counter with the Ventolin and Asmol inhalers will allow patients to view the number of doses remaining in their inhalers. This important update for Australian patients will enable better monitoring of medication usage and ensure there are doses remaining when they need them”.

There will be a transition to a dose counter over the next few months while the existing stock continues to be sold in pharmacies. While Australians may see limited availability in the early months, the full transition is expected to be complete by the end of 2020 and early 2021. After this time, all Ventolin and Asmol inhalers available will have a dose counter, this includes Zempreon (Salbutamol).

Please liaise with your doctor or pharmacist on the best option for you.

Read more about the Ventolin dose counter here.


(view information brochure on Fostair here).

What is Fostair?
Fostair is a combination preventer inhaler available by prescription for adults (18 years and older) with moderate to severe asthma. Fostair is not approved for use for people under the age of 18 years. Fostair can be used in two ways:

  1. As a preventer – Prescribed for twice-daily use and accompanied by a rapidly acting reliever (blue/grey reliever) to treat worsening symptoms as needed, and
  2. As a maintenance and reliever therapy – Prescribed for regular twice-daily use and to be used to treat worsening symptoms as needed.

Preventers can take up to a few weeks to work at their best, and it is common that a treatment trial of 4-8 weeks will be prescribed by your doctor to be sure that your prescription is effective at controlling your asthma.

Fostair is not intended for regular use before exercise. If you experience symptoms during exercise or activity, discuss with your health care professional how best to manage your symptoms, the best medications for your situation, and update your written Asthma Action Plan.


A new Bricanyl Turbuhaler was introduced in Australia on February 1. 

The new Bricanyl Turbuhaler device has been redesigned with:  

  • numerical dose counter  – this will give people with asthma clarity around how much medicine is in their device, so they know exactly when to replace it 
  • A different mouthpiece – may feel easier to use for some people with asthma 
  • New package labelling – addition of lactose as an inactive ingredient 
  • A new pack size with 120 doses (previously packs contained 100 doses) – the device will last longer, needing to be replaced less frequently. 

Learn more about Bricanyl (Terbutaline) Turbuhaler here.


An announcement was made by the Department of Health that from 1 February, pharmacy prescriptions will change as we commonly know them.  

It is now mandatory for your treating health professional to list the active ingredients in your medicine on your actual prescription. This will be known as Active Ingredient Prescribing.  

Read more on Active Ingredient Prescribing here.


There is a new version of an existing add-on medication – Spiriva Respimat – in Australia. 

Spiriva Respimat (tiotropium bromide) is an add-on inhaler available by prescription only for children six years and over and adults with difficult to treat asthma. 

If you have been using Spiriva Respimat in your asthma management plan, this change should not affect you significantly, but mainly means you don’t need to dispose of your device casing each time your cartridge is empty. 

The new Spiriva Respimat device has been redesigned as follows:  

  • The device casing is reusable for up to six repeat prescriptions. This means that after finishing one canister, you can reuse the casing another five times 
  • This means that when you obtain your new medicine at the pharmacy you will be given only the medicine cartridge to install into the device casing 
  • Your pharmacist can show you how to load your canister into your device casing.  
  • The new device comes with a new dose counter. This is different from the old device in that it indicates exactly how many doses remain in the device vs the previous traffic light indicator system 
  • The new device has a tracking indicator so you can keep track of how many cartridges you’ve gone through 

Read more about the latest Spiriva Respimat update here.