18 May 2020

New severe asthma resource for pharmacists as Coronavirus restrictions continue

A new resource is now available to help pharmacists manage the needs of people with severe asthma taking biologic therapy, with risk of the Coronavirus still impacting some hospital-based treatment regimes and a second wave uncertain.

Led by Asthma Australia, the resource ‘Supporting the continuity of a biologic (MAB) – based care for patients with severe asthma during the Coronavirus pandemic’ has been developed in collaboration with the National Asthma Council Australia, NPS MedicineWise, with support from the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand and industry leaders.

CEO of Asthma Australia Michele Goldman said community pharmacists could be called upon more often to dispense biologic treatments and help with patient education.

“This guide has been instigated to help people with severe asthma access critical therapies amid disruptions caused by the Coronavirus. We expect its relevance to pharmacists will extend into the future, especially as biologic therapies become more accessible and people understand how to access them from local pharmacies due to these disruptions.

“It’s a useful resource to communicate the treatment options now available to patients, to help pharmacists understand what scripts and questions they can expect to be presented with,” she said. “Pharmacists play a key role in linking the patient journey of care together, particularly now.”

During the first wave of Coronavirus, less patients were able to access hospital-based pharmacies due to lung function clinics redirecting their services.

“Whilst we’re seeing a reversion back to normal hospital-based lung clinics for now, the expectation is that with relaxed social distancing, a second wave of Coronavirus is likely, the extent of which however is not known. We expect people with severe asthma will remain cautious and stick to a local shared model of care for the time being,” Ms Goldman said.

This is one of three resources, developed to support Pharmacists, General Practitioners and people with severe asthma to navigate potential changes in accessing biological treatments required due to the Coronavirus.

“The guides work together to ensure pharmacists, GPs and patients are taking the right steps to ensure continuity of care,” Ms Goldman said.

“It is critical to establish optimal asthma control for patients during the COVID-19 pandemic, that includes helping them navigate through treatment access and administration during this unprecedented time,” said Ms Siobhan Brophy, Chief Executive Officer, National Asthma Council Australia.

“The new resource will be a handy guide for our health professionals to know what they can do to support patients with severe asthma to continue monoclonal antibody treatments in the new system,” Ms Brophy said.

Biologic therapies are prescribed to treat eligible patients with severe asthma and are usually administered by specialist teams in a hospital setting on a fortnightly to eight weekly basis.

The Asthma Australia severe asthma resources for patients and health professionals can be accessed via https://asthma.org.au/health-professionals/ and https://www.nationalasthma.org.au/news/2020/covid-19-and-your-asthma-patients

If people receiving severe asthma treatments have further questions, they are directed to call their specialist in the first instance, followed by 1800 ASTHMA.