Over the last few decades, asthma rates have been surging around the globe. In Australia, one in ten people suffer from asthma, which is triple the rate seen 30 years ago.
While the trend could be linked partly to doctors getting better at diagnosing the condition, research has suggested the rise in asthma is closely associated with the rise seen in allergies. Whatever the reasons behind these surging rates, treatment for asthma has been forced to improve and new changes to medication are frequently occurring.
What’s new in asthma drugs?
In the last few months there have been some big changes in asthma medicine, largely focusing on preventative measures. Medications, devices and brands have seen a flurry of activity, and new and updated medicines are being offered to keep asthma under control.
Among these are:
Symbicort is used to prevent bronchospasm, and is recommended for people with severe asthma. Until recently, Symbicort was only available in a rocket-shaped ‘Turbuhaler’, but today you can administer the drug via a new ‘Rapihaler’. Similar to puffer-type inhalers, the Rapihaler is best used with a spacer, and two puffs offers the same amount of medicine as one puff on the Turbuhaler.
This new device is ideal for those who prefer the use of puffer-type inhalers, and for those who suffer voice problems from alternative options.
Flutiform is fluticasone with eformoterol, a combination of two medicines currently offered in separate inhalers. For those that have been prescribed both medicines, this handy new all-in-one inhaler is welcome news.
Fluticasone and eformoterol are commonly prescribed for the treatment of asthma, and are designed to reduce swelling and inflammation in the lungs. Even so, Flutiform is a ‘preventer’ and cannot be used if you are already having an asthma attack. If you are already wheezing and breathless, you will need to use a fast acting ‘reliever’ medicine.
Until recently, Montelukast Sodium medication was only known under the name Singulair. In late 2013, the exclusive patent on Singulair ran out, allowing other manufactures to make and sell the drug. The result is at least ten other brands of the same medication, which is designed to prevent and manage asthma and relieve the symptoms of seasonal allergies.
A tablet drug, Montelukast Sodium, can be taken with or without food, and is most often used for children or those with exercise-induced asthma. As a result of the expired patent, prices of this particular.
Relvar is a new combination drug that has only been released in Europe. It contains the active ingredient fluticasone furoate and vilanterol, two drugs currently used in the treatment of adult asthma.
What makes Relvar special is that unlike other combination medicines, Relvar only needs to be inhaled once a day, not the usual twice a day. This is great news for people who often forget to take their second dose.
Relvar is currently not approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and is not yet known whether or not Relvar will make it to Australia.
The importance of finding the right medication
For those suffering asthma, a choice in medication methods is important. Some could love one device, while others can struggle with it. New medications make for exciting news, because it adds to the already varied treatments available. The more options you have, the more likely you are to find a treatment that best suits your symptoms and lifestyle.
Every asthma diagnosis is different, and the triggers of an asthma attack differ from person to person. Asthma can be caused by allergies, exercise, sinusitis, weather, respiratory infection, pet dander, tobacco, genetics, nutrition, work environment, weight, or nocturnal activity. Having a good understanding of your triggers will guide you to finding the most effective treatment.
One way to do this is to keep a symptom diary. Even if you already know your triggers, a symptom diary can monitor how well you are managing your treatment. It can also help you avoid your triggers following a flare-up, when your lungs are at their weakest.
To keep a symptom diary, record the trigger (even if you have to make a guess), the symptoms, what you did to relieve the symptoms and how well it worked. If you notice through your diary that your symptoms are getting worse, you should speak to your doctor immediately.
Having visited your doctor, you should have been provided a written asthma action plan, a detailed set of treatment instructions. Your asthma action plan should include:
- What medication to take every day (even when you are feeling well).
- Ways to tell if your condition is deteriorating.
- What to do if you fear an asthma attack.
- What to do if you suffer an asthma attack.
- Tips to improve lung function.
- A healthy eating guide with an emphasis on fruits, vegetables, fish and minimal saturated fats.
An asthma action plan should be updated annually.
When to change your medication
If you ever don’t feel comfortable with your current medication or asthma action plan, speak with your GP and ask about any new developments. The key aim is to find something that works to treat symptoms at the lowest dose possible.
Good indicators that your current medication isn’t working include:
- Waking at night suffering asthma symptoms.
- Using reliever medication more than three times a week.
- Getting wheezy and breathless at regular intervals.
- Struggling to get on with usual activities.
Living with asthma is all about taking control. Managing asthma well means you are free to enjoy a full and active lifestyle with little risk of attack. The right medication will help you stay on top of your asthma and in control, but even the best medication will fail if not taken properly. Always be sure you are using your inhaler correctly by checking your technique every six months.
It’s also important to check in when changes happen in your own lifestyle, such as starting a new active hobby or falling pregnant. Asthma during pregnancy can be easily controlled, but your medication may need altering. Even without significant lifestyle changes, your asthma can change over time. Work closely with your doctor to help track your symptoms and make adjustments to your asthma medications if needed.
Please note that these medications are covered under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and therefore no benefits will be paid by CBHS.
Should you hold a hospital level of cover or packaged product and if you have Chronic Asthma, CBHS has a program to assist you. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.