“COST CANNOT BE A BARRIER TO SAVING ESSENTIAL MEDICATIONS” - Asthma Society of Ireland Calls on Government to Subsidise Essential Asthma Medication in Budget 2024

25 Sep 2023

The Asthma Society of Ireland, now in its 50th year of impact, today released its 2024 pre-budget submission, with seven budgetary asks focused on preventing asthma deaths in Ireland, improving the quality of life for 380,000 people in Ireland with asthma, and reducing the cost of asthma to both the State and the individual.

The Asthma Society’s Seven Pre-Budget asks include:

  • Universal Subsidisation of Asthma Medications
  • Invest in severe asthma medication
  • Extend the current Asthma Management Programme to all people with asthma
  • Increase Capacity in our Healthcare System: Recruit Respiratory Specialists
  • Improve Air Quality in our Homes and Communities
  • Disincentivise smoking and e-cigarettes through taxation
  • Restore pay parity within the Community and Voluntary Sector

As a priority, the Asthma Society is calling on Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly to make a substantive move towards universal subsidisation of asthma medication in this year’s Budget by making ‘combination’ inhalers free to people with asthma International research has found that these relatively new ‘combination inhalers’, taken daily to keep asthma symptoms at bay, reduce the risk of asthma attacks and unscheduled GP and hospital visits.

Speaking about the need for affordable asthma medication, CEO of the Asthma Society of Ireland, Eilís Ní Chaithnía, said:

“Asthma medications, when used properly, are a reliable and cost-effective way of managing asthma, saving lives and substantially reducing the demands on our overwhelmed healthcare system. While we warmly welcome the expansion of free GP visits for children under 8, our service users – people with asthma and their loved ones – were already reporting difficulty in securing appointments. With the increased risk of viral infection over recent years, and climate change posing an immediate threat to lung health, it is crucial that people can take their asthma medication as prescribed. Medications that reduce the inflammation in the lungs caused by asthma, as combination inhalers do, are the best way to protect against asthma emergencies and fatalities.

We hope to see Budget 2024 make positive changes for people with asthma in Ireland. Given the financial pressures facing people across the country, it has never been more crucial to prioritise the affordability of asthma medications.

Covering the substantial cost of their asthma medications has always been a worry for our members, especially because it tends to run in families. However, a 2023 survey of 1,294 people with asthma in Ireland revealed the concerning decisions people with asthma and their loved ones have been forced to make during the cost-of-living crisis. Despite 96% of those surveyed being prescribed asthma medications, 45% have had to forego them in the prior three months due to financial constraints.1

In Ireland, someone visits the Emergency Department due to asthma every four minutes. Tragically, every five days, a family in Ireland loses a loved one due to asthma. If patients are unable to take their medications as prescribed, they are at risk of an asthma attack.

Ireland has one of the highest hospitalisation rates for asthma in the EU. It also has one of the highest prevalence of asthma in the world.  Therefore, it is crucial to ensure people have access to asthma medications, regardless of their financial circumstances, so they can manage their condition effectively. The Asthma Society, now in its 50th year, has been advocating for asthma medications to be included free of charge on the Long Term Illness Scheme for decades.

 The Asthma Society is urging Minister Donnelly to demonstrate his commitment to the health and lives of the nearly 400,000 people with asthma in Ireland and their families by making combination inhalers free of charge in Budget 2024.”

Speaking of best practice in asthma control Consultant in Respiratory Medicine at St. Vincent's Hospital and Medical Director of the Asthma Society Professor, Marcus Butler, said:

“Asthma attacks can occur when a patient's asthma is not well controlled, which may be due to not taking their controller medication as prescribed, not using their inhaler correctly, or an indication that their treatment needs to be reviewed.

An asthma combination inhaler contains two types of medication recommended by national and international best practices for asthma management. Using this type of inhaler has proven to reduce asthma symptoms and reduce the cost of asthma to both the person and the State. Combination inhalers, however, are expensive which can affect medication adherence.  However, the cost is a clear barrier, with each combination inhaler costing anything up to €80 per inhaler.

In the current cost of living crisis and a healthcare system recovering from the pressure of the COVID-19 pandemic, subsidising asthma medication makes sense. Cost cannot be a barrier to life-saving medication.  Asthma is estimated to cost the State €472 million annually due to hospitalisations, GP visits, and practice nurse consultations. Increased use of combination inhalers as recommended by national and international best practices not only increases the quality of life for people with asthma, but it reduces the cost of asthma on the State.

Cost cannot be a barrier to life-saving medication. We urgently need a universal subsidisation of asthma medication which would sit best within the Long-Term Illness (LTI) Scheme.”

The Asthma Society also urges the Government to use Budget 2024 as an opportunity to encourage asthma-friendly communities by disincentivising smoking and e-cigarette use and by removing asthma triggers from our air and homes. Professor Marcus Butler continued:

“Rising use of e-cigarettes, particularly among young people, is a deep concern within the asthma community. Research shows that e-cigarette use and passive exposure to their aerosols negatively impact respiratory health among adolescents and are shown to be an asthma trigger. The Asthma Society are calling on the Government to tax e-cigarettes and vapes to other tobacco products, as recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The Asthma Society is also calling for asthma triggers to be removed from our air both inside and outside our homes through measures that will reduce pollution from transport and smoky fuels, increase retrofitting of homes for people with asthma and improve our electricity grid.”

He concluded,

“When the basics of asthma care are done well, there are long-lasting benefits to the person and the wider health system. With that in mind, the Asthma Society’s 2024 Pre-Budget Submission is calling for targeted investment that will radically reduce the long-term direct and indirect costs of asthma.”

For more information on the Asthma Society visit asthma.ie. 



For further information or interview requests with Asthma Society CEO Eilis NiChaithnia,
please contact:

Laura Greer, Etch Communications laura@etchcomms.ie 0869605600

Anna Bourke, Asthma Society of Ireland Anna.Bourke@asthmasociety.ie 086 0691504


1) A survey was conducted online by the Asthma Society amongst 1,294 men and women aged 18+ living with asthma between 23rd - 26th April 2023

2) Easing the Economic Burden of Asthma: The Impact of a Universal Self-Management Programme, Asthma Society of Ireland, June 2019.