New ABS data has revealed a significant decrease in asthma-related deaths in Australian women… but what about men?
The number of deaths remains high, however, and the death toll for men has not improved, the National Asthma Council warns.
The figures show there were 389 asthma-related deaths recorded in Australia in 2018, comprising 250 females and 139 males, which indicates a decrease from 441 in 2017, and 457 in 2016.
Those aged 75 and over continue to account for nearly two-thirds of deaths (241 of 389), while child deaths remain uncommon but can still occur – seven children lost their lives to asthma in 2018.
National Asthma Council Australia chief executive Siobhan Brophy says while adult women are at highest risk of dying from asthma, significant drop in deaths from 281 to 234 could be attributed to several mitigating factors.
"We believe that increased patient awareness following the epidemic of thunderstorm asthma in Melbourne in 2016 has played a major role in this reduction," said Ms Brophy.
"The development of new ways to manage severe asthma is also having an impact – biological agents are improving patient lives, while increased management and review protocols surrounding their potential prescription are providing greater opportunities to optimize patient care."
NAC spokesperson and general practitioner Dr Ian Almond said that while severe asthma affects only about three to 10% of the 2.5 million Australians with asthma, it can be life-threatening and profoundly distressing for patients and their families.
“Severe asthma, defined as asthma that remains uncontrolled despite the highest recommended level of inhaled medication or maintenance of oral corticosteroids, or that requires such treatment to prevent it becoming uncontrolled, has significant effects on patient's health, careers, families and daily lives, "He said.
“While it is important to ensure that those who can benefit from new treatments are correctly identified and referred promptly, it is equally important to identify people whose uncontrolled asthma is potentially due to other causes, such as comorbidities or poor adherence, so these issues can be answered. "
Ms Brophy said that pharmacists play a vital role in identifying patients who may be at risk of uncontrolled asthma, and are in an ideal position to work with them around adherence, inhaler techniques, triggers and the potential for overuse, to help ensure all patients with asthma receive the treatment and support they need to better manage their condition.
“While SABA remains an essential rescue medication, including its use for asthma first aid in the community and acute asthma treatment in emergency settings, for adults and adolescents relying on reliable treatment alone, experiencing symptoms more than twice a month indicates the need for regular preventer, ”she said.
In 2018 chronic lower respiratory disease (4.9%) continues to be the fifth leading cause of deaths in Australia (ABS). A significant proportion of asthma morbidity and its associated costs in Australia are preventable.