The need for an urgent change in asthma management is advocated this week by a group of respiratory specialists, patient representatives, GPs and paediatricians from across Europe and North America.
Writing in the December issue of the European Respiratory Journal (ERJ), the group, which includes Professor Stephen Holgate, Medical Research Council Professor of Immunopharmacology at the University of Southampton, identifies deficiencies in a range of areas in relation to asthma, including: diagnosis, recognition of the disease nature, asthma control, set-up of clinical trials, treatment of asthmatic children, asthma research and environmental conditions.
The group also calls for a concerted effort from policymakers, regulators, health professionals, industry and patients, to remedy the significant disparities in asthma management practices between and within European countries, to ensure better outcomes for European asthma patients.
The prevalence of asthma has increased dramatically over the last 20 years and around 180,000 deaths annually are attributable to asthma worldwide. It is particularly common in industrialized countries.
The article in the ERJ highlights the Finnish Asthma Programme as a best-practice example of asthma management. The authors say the programme demonstrates that early diagnosis, personalised treatment and guided self-management, combined with patient education and reductions in tobacco smoking and exposure to environmental risk factors, can improve patients' asthma whilst reducing overall costs.
Stephen Holgate comments: "The Finnish Asthma Programme is a compelling example of what can be achieved when all parties cooperate. I hope it will find as many 'copycats' as possible."
Susanna Palkonen from the European Federation of Airways Diseases Patients' Associations (EFA) adds: "Patients have to be empowered to manage their disease and have a say in decisions on their care."
John Haughney from the International Primary Care Respiratory Group (IPCRG) concludes: "Currently, a lot of patients have asthma which is insufficiently controlled. The education and involvement of GPs is crucial if we want to improve this situation."
The article validates key findings from the Brussels Declaration, launched in June 2007, which outlined how and when changes need to be made to the way that asthma is managed in the EU to ensure optimum treatment for all patients.