Life for asthmatics has improved incrementally since the first asthma guidelines were created in 1989. Doctors are now better equipped to manage asthma, and we asthmatics are better able to breathe easy during the course of a day.
But just like with anything there's room for improvement. Asthma rates continue to grow, now effecting 54 of every 1000 children. Asthma rates tend to be higher in poor and minority neighborhoods. The overall cost of asthma per year is estimated to be $19.7 billion, which includes the cost of days missed from work. Advair is almost unaffordable for working folks with health insurance.
There's an estimated 300 million people worldwide afflicted with this disease, and 350,000 deaths attributable to asthma each year. (for more such statistics check out AAAAI.org). So there's definitely room for improvement.
To reduce asthma rates and make life better for all asthmatics around the globe, I think there are a few things that need to change. So here are ten things I'd change to make good asthma control possible for more people. Feel free to add your own ideas in the comments section and make this an interactive discussion.
1. Make albuterol inhalers available over the counter: I'm dead serious. Put it on the shelves right next to Tylenol and every asthmatic will have easy access to an even more affordable rescue medicine. There's a reason this medicine is the most popular asthma medicine of all time: it works and it's safe. Every asthma expert I've ever met recommends every asthmatic have an asthma rescue inhaler on his possession at all times, and this would make that a possibility for even the poorest among us.
2. Make inhaled steroids available over the counter: Why not? It's now a top line treatment for asthma, and that's because its proven to work and it's proven safe. Studies show that many asthmatics can gain control of their disease simply by taking this medicine twice daily. Surely there are better asthma medicines on the market like Advair and Symbicort, but for those who can't afford those expensive medicines, they can simply drive to Walmart and trade $20 for an inhaler. This would be a great way to prevent acute asthma episodes, and reduce the overall cost of asthma.
3. Make available non-FDA approved medicine: You read that right. I think all medicine should be available to asthmatics, not just medicine approved by the FDA. This way individual doctors and asthmatics can weigh the risks and advantages for themselves instead of having a government agent do it for them. Put on a black box warning if you want, but don't deny asthmatics the right to choose.
4. Increase funding for asthma research and education: I would like to see asthma treated as the serious disease it is. It should be treated as an epidemic, with the necessary funding for continued asthma research, better medicine, a possible cure, and improved asthma education. We can debate how to do this in another post, but this is a dream list here. However, you can start by signing this petition.
5. Free asthma clinics: I would like insurance companies and government agencies to provide reimbursement for nurses and respiratory therapists to provide education about asthma in local communities. This would allow asthmatics of all income groups to tap into a knowledge base that already exists, and the result would be better knowledge on how to control asthma.
6. Create an asthma ad campaign: I would like to see every person better educated about asthma, how to recognize it, and how to treat it. And I'm not just talking about asthmatics, but everyone. I want EVERYONE to understand about asthma. This is especially true for teachers, librarians, parents, grand parents, or anyone who takes care of asthmatics. This way we can put an end to nonsense like this.
7. Create an asthma support group: I would like to see a not for profit organization formed specifically to help asthmatics become better educated. This group could also raise money specifically to help asthmatics in poor areas afford doctor visits and supplement monthly prescription costs. A bonus would be if the organization helped asthmatics in poor neighborhoods allergy proof their homes, which may be a major undertaking. These groups can likewise help with #4, 5 and 6 above.
8. Improved education for doctors: I think many doctors are asthma savvy, yet I still think there are many doctors stuck in the past as far as asthma wisdom is concerned. I'd like to see every doctor who takes care of asthmatics up to date on his asthma wisdom. I don't want to see another asthmatic visit me in the emergency room because she's getting bad asthma care by her doctor.
9. Improved education for asthma parents: This might even be a top priority for me because kids are completely dependent on their parents. If a parent misinterprets night time anxiety, crying, and coughing as annoying, the child will not get the care he needs. This is why I think it's of utmost importance that asthma parents be educated. This is a job for doctors, but busy doctors may want to transfer this task on to #5 and 7 above. I think it's imperative that every asthma parent be asthma savvy.
10. Don't stop discovering asthma genes: It seems there's a new asthma gene discovered every year, and this is great. I've even read articles about variants of asthma genes being linked to asthma. Every new such discovery is good news for asthmatics. It's asthma wisdom on steroids. It means better asthma treatment in the future, and a possible life without the risk of asthma for our great grand children. That would be awesome!!!! Scientists and researchers doing this work are all right in my book.
Published On: February 27, 2012