Asthma Society Calls on the Government for Subsidisation of Life-Saving Asthma Medications

14 Sep 2020

Asthma Society releases their Pre-Budget Submission 2021 which aims to prevent asthma deaths in Ireland 

The Asthma Society of Ireland today releases their Pre-Budget Submission 2021, which presents to the Government five asks to be considered in the 2021 Budget that could greatly improve the lives of people with asthma in Ireland.

The Asthma Society is calling upon the Government for a subsidisation of all asthma medications outlined in steps 1 to 4 of GINA guidelines which categorise medications for the main treatment of asthma for those with mild to moderate asthma.  

Currently 380,000 people in Ireland have asthma and 890,000 will develop the condition in their lifetime. It is estimated that more than half of people living with asthma do not have their disease under control, putting them at a higher risk of asthma attacks/exacerbations, hospitalisations, absence from school and work, and even dying due to their condition. One person dies from asthma every week and an estimated 90% of these deaths are preventable. An essential component of asthma control is medication compliance.

Emily Blennerhasset, Interim CEO of the Asthma Society of Ireland, said: “When a person with asthma does not have access to the proper care or medication, there is a higher risk that they will become unwell. This affects their quality of life, increases pressure on the healthcare system, increases absenteeism from school and work, and is financially very costly to the State. Due to the huge burden imposed on the state by asthma, it makes sense for the Government to step up and make Ireland more asthma-friendly. Our Pre-Budget Submission shows the basic steps that should be taken by the Government when compiling the 2021 Budget.

We received a huge amount of support from political candidates towards our 2020 General Election #AsthmaMatters manifesto, where we asked for the recognition of asthma as a long term illness and its inclusion under the Long Term Illness Scheme. However, it has been made clear that this is not an option for asthma patients. That is why we are calling for a subsidisation of all asthma mediation outlined in steps 1 to 4 of GINA guidelines. These medications are essential for people with asthma and not having them has a huge negative affect on their health.

The five asks of the Asthma Society Pre-Budget Submission are:
1. Introduce universal full subsidisation of asthma medications
2. Expand national fund for severe asthma medication
3. Find the extension of the current asthma management programme for all people with asthma
4. Increase the number of registered Advanced Nurse Practitioners to meet 2% Department of Health guidelines
5. Provide the Asthma Society of Ireland with annual core funding

Speaking about expanding the national fund for severe asthma, Marcus Butler, Medical Director of the Asthma Society of Ireland said: “It is estimated that 11,400 - 19,000 people live with severe asthma in Ireland. 

Patients with severe asthma can often experience a challenging and intolerable burden of symptoms including recurrent breathlessness, prolonged bouts of coughing, chest tightness and wheeze. These symptoms often deteriorate into frightening or life-threatening attacks and can have an extremely negative impact on their quality of life. People with severe asthma need timely equitable and affordable access to necessary medication.
The current level of funding for biologic medication means that most people with severe asthma – whose lives usually improve dramatically from the treatment – are not receiving this treatment and are over-exposed to toxic, less effective medications. This will negatively impact their quality of life, increases their risk of hospitalisations and HCP visits due to asthma and toxic medication side-effects, and in turn affect attendance at school and work. 

We are calling on the Government to expand the national fund for biologic medication for severe asthma to ensure every person who would benefit from this life-changing treatment has equitable access to it in a timely way.“

Asthma is estimated to cost the State €472 million a year. The Asthma Society has proposed for the extension of the current asthma management programme to include all people with asthma. A Universal asthma self- management programme could save the State between €68 and €102 million a year. Ireland records the second highest hospitalisation rate for asthma across EU countries and is around 50% above the EU average. This alarming statistic shows that there is an urgent need to improve the management of asthma in primary care.

The Asthma Society’s full Pre-Budget Submission 2021 can be viewed here.