Melbourne, Australia. 1 December, 2020 – New research released today reveals the toll the triple-whammy of this year’s seasonal bushfires,2D,2E storms,2F,2G and COVID-192H,2I has taken on Aussies suffering from asthma, as many are concerned about what the new year will bring2C and are being urged to get an Asthma Action Plan for this summer.2J,2K
More than 2.7 million Australians (1 in 9) are living with diagnosed asthma,4A and the majority (71%) do not have an Asthma Action Plan in place.4B
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 Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) for the maintenance treatment of asthma for adults 18 years and older where use of a combination product is appropriate.1A
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 2020.2L Sixty-three % faced challenges as a person with asthma during COVID-19,2M while 60% felt impacted by the bushfires.2N Sixty-nine % have concerns going into the new year.2C
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%)2B and frequency (51%) of their symptoms compared to last year,2O and that the extra stress of 2020 has exacerbated their symptoms (47%).2P
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.2R
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%),2J yet more than half have not yet spoken with their doctor this year (65%).2Q
“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%),2S as the majority have been feeling anxiety around COVID-19 (64%) this year.2T
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,2U and 46% were unable to leave the house due to the smoke.2V
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.6 “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.6 More than 50% of these impacts were in NSW.”6
Seasonal weather patterns, including storms, is another trigger that may impact people with asthma. Thirty-three % of those who described their asthma as being severe or very severe said their asthma had been impacted by storms this year.2G People with asthma should talk with their doctor about whether storms are a trigger for them.7A
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 findings
Data overview – all respondents, Australians living with asthma (mild, moderate, severe, and very severe)
Data breakdown – Australians who described their asthma as ‘severe’ or ‘very severe’
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.
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