Experts urge Australians with asthma to get their action plan in place in lead up to new year

  • A new treatment for adults with asthma, Fostair®, is available on the PBS from 1 December1
  • Newly released survey from YouGov Galaxy shows Aussies with asthma have experienced worsening symptoms in 2020 and are feeling concerned about their condition going into the summer and new year2
  • Healthcare experts are urging people living with asthma to have their management plan assessed to get on top of seasonal bushfires and stormy weather

Melbourne, Australia – New research released reveals the toll the triple-whammy of this year’s seasonal bushfires, storms, and COVID-19 has taken on Aussies suffering from asthma, as many are concerned about what the new year will bring and are being urged to get an Asthma Action Plan for this summer.2

More than 2.7 million Australians (1 in 9) are living with diagnosed asthma, and the majority (71%) do not have an Asthma Action Plan in place.3

As of December 1, 2020, a new combination therapy of an inhaled corticosteroid and long-acting beta2-agonist was approved by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). Fostair® (beclometasone dipropionate and formoterol (eformoterol) fumarate dihydrate), is available on the PBS for the maintenance treatment of asthma for adults 18 years and older where use of a combination product is appropriate.1

Professor Bruce Thompson, Dean, School of Health Sciences Swinburne University of Technology says the reimbursement of Fostair® on the PBS is a welcomed addition to the options available to treat asthma. He said it is vital for people with asthma to talk to their GP about updating or creating their Asthma Action Plan.

“Asthma therapy is not one-size-fits all, so the continued introduction of new combination therapy options like Fostair® is important for those living with moderate to severe asthma, particularly if they are in need of both a preventer and reliever,” said Professor Thompson.

“The severity and frequency of a person’s symptoms can change at different points in time and many people with asthma may have struggled to keep their condition well controlled in light of the many factors we have seen this year.”

As with other combination inhaler treatments for asthma, Fostair® is generally well-tolerated and side-effects may include fungal infections of the mouth and throat, hoarseness, headache and sore throat.3 Asthma patients should speak to their doctor or other healthcare professional if they require further information about Fostair®.

The YouGov Galaxy survey revealed that more than half of people surveyed with asthma (52%) said their asthma management has been impacted in some way by the events of 2020.2 Sixty-three per cent faced challenges as a person with asthma during COVID-19, while 60 per cent felt impacted by the bushfires.2 Sixty-nine per cent have concerns going into the new year.2

The impact was particularly felt by those who described their asthma as being ‘severe’ or ‘very severe’, with more than half saying they have experienced a worsening in severity (52%) and frequency (51%) of their symptoms compared to last year, and that the extra stress of 2020 has exacerbated their symptoms (47%).2
Professor Bruce Thompson said: “It’s important to reassess your Asthma Action Plan with your doctor at least once a year to make sure it’s working for you. As we enter the summer period and with the new year not far away it is a timely reminder to visit your GP and get on top of your Asthma Action Plan.”

The YouGov Galaxy survey showed that the majority (82%) of those surveyed who described their asthma as being severe or very severe are feeling concerned about the continued impacts the environmental events as well as the pandemic will have on their condition coming into the new year.2

Asthma Australia Chief Executive Michele Goldman said the environmental and public health events of 2020 have been particularly rough for people with asthma.

“This year has not only impacted upon the physical health of people with asthma, but also increased feelings of anxiety,” she said.

“Understandably, many people with asthma may be concerned as we enter into summer with the potential for another bushfire season, higher risk of a thunderstorm asthma event, and the ongoing threat of COVID-19.”
The survey also showed that almost a quarter of those who described their asthma as being severe or very severe felt their Asthma Action Plan is no longer working for them (22%), yet more than half have not yet spoken with their doctor this year (65%).2

“Many asthma sufferers may have avoided the doctor during the pandemic due to concerns of catching the virus or even the barriers to accessing healthcare – with the COVID-19 and asthma sharing symptoms like shortness of breath and coughing,” Ms Goldman said.

“It is important people don’t put it off any longer. If you have been experiencing asthma symptoms more than twice per week, we would encourage you to go see your doctor to get an asthma review and up-to-date Asthma Action Plan ahead of the new year.”

Going into 2021, the ongoing reality of coronavirus is top-of-mind for those who described their asthma as being severe or very severe (38%), as the majority have been feeling anxiety around COVID-19 (64%) this year.2

The bushfire season in particular has also had a marked impact on asthma sufferers, with the survey finding those based in NSW to be the worst affected, as more than half (60%) reported a worsening of symptoms, and 46% were unable to leave the house due to the smoke.2

The NSW Bushfire Inquiry reported that between 1 October 2019 and 10 February 2020, bushfire smoke in eastern Australia was estimated to have caused 417 premature deaths.4 There are also estimates of 3,151 admissions to hospital for cardiorespiratory problems and 1,305 additional presentations to emergency departments for asthma aggravated by the smoke.4 More than 50 per cent of these impacts were in NSW.4s
Seasonal weather patterns, including storms, is another trigger that may impact people with asthma. Thirty-three per cent of those who described their asthma as being severe or very severe said their asthma had been impacted by storms this year.2 People with asthma should talk with their doctor about whether storms are a trigger for them.5


 

About the YouGov Galaxy Survey

This study was conducted online between 31st August – 8th September 2020. The sample comprised a nationally representative sample of 1,040 Australians aged 18 years and over who have been diagnosed with asthma.

In the survey, ‘severe’ was described as “difficult to manage and may be prescribed steroid tablets for a flare up”, and ‘very severe’ was described as “may have been hospitalised for asthma symptoms.”
Further survey findings2

Data overview – all respondents, Australians living with asthma (mild, moderate, severe, and very severe)2

  • 30% are concerned about the continuing impact of COVID-19 in 2021 in relation to their asthma
  • 20% are concerned about bushfires in 2021 in relation to their asthma
  • Compared to 2019, this year 15% said the severity of their asthma symptoms have worsened2A and 25% said they have become more frequent
  • 45% say that the bushfires impacted their asthma in 2020
    • 45% cited worsening of their symptoms due to the smoke
    • 30% were unable to leave the house due to the smoke
  • 13% say that COVID-19 has impacted their asthma in 2020
    • 39% have been feeling anxiety about the higher risk of respiratory complications from COVID-19
    • 17% said anxiety/stress about COVID-19 generally has worsened their symptoms
    • 18% have experienced difficulties accessing their prescribed asthma medications

Data breakdown – Australians who described their asthma as ‘severe’ or ‘very severe’2

  • Compared to 2019, 52% of sufferers say their asthma symptoms have generally worsened in 2020.
    • Almost 1 in 5 (19%) said that their work has been impacted more by their asthma in 2020 than 2019.
    • Compared to last year, 36% have not been able to help around the home as much as they normally would, due to asthma.
  • 59% were impacted by the bushfires in 2019-20:
    • 64% experienced a worsening of symptoms due to the smoke
    • 48% were unable to leave the house due to the smoke
  • 24% say that COVID-19 has impacted their asthma in 2020:
    • 64% experienced anxiety/concern around being at higher risk of complications from COVID-19
    • 36% said anxiety/stress about COVID-19 generally has worsened their symptoms
    • 32% have experienced shortages of their prescribed asthma medications
    • 24% have not had regular access to healthcare professionals

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About Chiesi Australia

Chiesi Australia is the Australia-New Zealand division of the Chiesi Group, a global pharmaceutical company based in Parma, Italy. The Chiesi Group acquired Emerge Health in November 2019. The Chiesi Group (also known as Chiesi Farmaceutici) is an international research focused Group with over 80 years’ experience in healthcare, operating in 29 countries. The Group conducts research, develops treatment options and supplies innovative drugs to treat a wide range of conditions. The Group’s Research and Development Centre is based in Parma, Italy and coordinates the activities of four important R&D groups in France, USA, UK and Sweden to drive its own pre-clinical, clinical and registration programs. The Group continues to focus in areas of respiratory diseases, specialty care and rare diseases.

References

  1. Data on File: PBS listing notification, Chiesi.
  2. YouGov Galaxy. 2020. Consumer Survey of Australians living with Asthma. Chiesi Australia data on file.
  3. Asthma Australia. Asthma in Australia. Available online: https://asthma.org.au/about-asthma/understanding-asthma/statistics/ [last accessed Nov 2020]
  4. NSW Government. 2020. Final Report of the NSW Bushfire Inquiry. Available online: https://www.nsw.gov.au/nsw-government/projects-and-initiatives/nsw-bushfire-inquiry [last accessed Nov 2020]
  5. National Asthma Council Australia. What are asthma triggers. Available online: https://www.nationalasthma.org.au/understanding-asthma/what-are-asthma-triggers [last accessed November 2020]