In response to Budget 2020 announcements by Minister for Health Simon Harris, the Asthma Society of Ireland expresses dissatisfaction at the lack of substantive measures to tackle the financial burden of medications on people with asthma. The organisation has been calling over successive budgets for the cost of asthma medication to be urgently reduced.
Sarah O’Connor, CEO of the Asthma Society of Ireland, said: “The high costs of controller medication means many forgo taking it and rely instead on reliever inhalers when experiencing an attack, which is extremely dangerous. Reliever inhalers are often insufficient to combat severe asthma attacks. Overreliance on reliever medications can further exacerbate the condition, leading to higher rates of hospitalisation and even death. Ultimately, poor use of controller medication due to high costs is resulting in significant and wholly avoidable repercussions for both the patient and the State. While the announced reductions in prescription charges and the Drugs Payment Scheme threshold will go some way to relieving medication costs for the 380,000 people with asthma in Ireland, more is needed.”
The Asthma Society also called on the Minister to establish a funding model for high-tech severe-asthma treatments in Budget 2020, which are needed by a small cohort of the population but which prove life-changing for suitable patients.
Sarah O’Connor continued, “For severe asthma patients, biologic medications can mean the difference between completely debilitating symptoms and frequent hospitalisation, or potentially leading a happy, healthy and full life. Yet, in Ireland, access to these medications is dependent on each hospital’s pharmacy budget so, for five hundred or so patients with severe asthma suitable for biologic treatment, it is not need that determines whether they receive this life-changing medication, but where they live. It is a postcode lottery for their health.”
The Asthma Society is pleased to welcome the announced extension of free GP care to children under eight years.
Sarah O’Connor, concluded: “In combination with the very welcome announcement by Minister Harris of the Chronic Disease Management Programme in April, extending free GP care to children under eight years should make a real difference in asthma patients’ ability to manage their disease. The Asthma Society has long advocated for a universal self-management programme for people with asthma and we believe, with these measures, Ireland is getting closer to realising that.”
Other announcements welcomed by the Asthma Society are:
- A 50c increase to the cost of cigarettes
- The tax on carbon
- Nitrogen Oxide charge on vehicles