11 Jul 2018
Let Me Breathe

Key budget recommendations to eradicate preventable asthma deaths

  • An inhaler can save a life – adapt regulations to make inhalers easily available in schools, clubs, community organisations and workplaces
  •  Free annual asthma GP review for all people with asthma
  • Substantially reduce cost of asthma medication
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The Asthma Society of Ireland launched their Pre-Budget Submission (Let Me Breathe) in Buswells Hotel today (11th July 2018).

Two of the key initiatives the Asthma Society has championed are:

  1. The delivery of the long-promised free annual GP asthma review for people with asthma, and
  2. The change in regulations to make it easier for all schools, clubs, and workplaces to have a reliever inhaler available in the event of someone having an asthma attack – at present, for a member of the public to administer a reliever inhaler requires three days of training

The Pre-Budget Submission by the Asthma Society highlighted ten initiatives in total which could help to eradicate preventable asthma deaths in Ireland and to transform the quality of life of the 470,000 people with asthma in Ireland. One person dies a week as result of their asthma and 90% of these deaths are preventable.

Click here for Let Me Breathe Budget Submission

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What is an annual asthma GP review?

An annual asthma GP review is an annual appointment with a GP that gives a person with asthma the opportunity to discuss their condition, analyse their medication and assess if it needs to be changed, and find out whether their asthma is properly controlled.

Speaking on the need for free annual asthma reviews, Sarah O’Connor, CEO of the Asthma Society said:

In Ireland, 60% of people with asthma do not have their asthma in control. If we want to eradicate preventable asthma deaths and improve asthma control, we must enable people to have their asthma regularly reviewed by their GP.  Seven years ago, the HSE National Clinical Programme for Asthma accepted that free annual reviews were essential when they published their plan for asthma care in Ireland. 

Despite this, the only group who can currently avail of such a free annual GP review are children under six.  It is imperative that the Government introduce free reviews for everyone with asthma in Budget 2019, starting with everyone under 18 and those diagnosed with severe asthma,” commented Sarah O’Connor.

Do schools, workplaces and clubs not already have access to reliever inhalers?

One in five Irish school-going children (177,727) have asthma and one in ten adults in Ireland have asthma.

In October 2015, the Minister for Health signed new regulations allowing trained members of the public to administer life-saving rescue medicines such as epi pens, glucagon for diabetic hypoglycaemia and reliever asthma inhalers in emergency situations.  The legislation enables bodies to register and obtain the required medication without the need for a prescription and to have it on site for immediate use, but the training for staff is three days long and requires updating every two years.  It is generally accepted among the medical community that the side effect of taking a reliever inhaler is slight dizziness. Reliever asthma inhalers can save a life – it is safe for adults to take 10 puffs in 10 minutes and for children under six to take 6 puffs in 10 minutes when they are having an attack.

The Asthma Society has learnt through a parliamentary question submitted on our behalf that no schools have registered for the scheme.

Asthma attacks are a serious medical emergency and can prove fatal. The fact that schools are not registering to keep a reliever inhaler on site is hugely alarming.  This means that there may be no inhaler on site to use – which puts all asthma suffering children and adults at risk.  Minister Harris needs to revisit these regulations as schools have indicated that the accompanying training requirements are overly burdensome.  We have to make it workable for schools, workplaces, gyms, and other public spaces to have a reliever inhaler and for someone to be able to administer it.  Time is of the essence as it is inevitable that every school will have to deal with a student having an asthma attack at some point,” commented Sarah O’Connor.

Asthma attacks are a serious medical emergency and can prove fatal.

Sarah O'Connor
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How do people with asthma manage the cost of medication?

Asthma costs the Irish economy more than half a billion Euro per annum. As the most common chronic disease in Ireland, asthma is a challenging health problem but it also has a hugely negative financial impact - both on a person’s monthly outgoings and on the State’s finances. 

Commenting on the unacceptably high cost of medication, Sarah O’Connor said:

People simply can’t afford the monthly inhalers required to keep themselves healthy.  Some go without their medication entirely and others stretch their inhaler by skipping doses – they leave themselves at risk of worsening symptoms and even fatal attacks. The single biggest barrier to good asthma management is the cost of asthma medication. 

“Asthma is a long term condition with no cure - it demands inclusion in the Long Term Illness scheme (LTI).  As a step towards fully covering the cost of all asthma medication, the medication currently paid for privately and amount paid before the Drugs Payment Scheme kicks in should be prioritised.

“Research published in the Irish Journal of Medical Science conducted in conjunction with the Asthma Society estimates it would cost between €20-33 million per year for the Government to provide all respiratory drugs free of charge.”

In conclusion, Sarah O’Connor said:

“Asthma is often incorrectly dismissed as not being a serious medical condition.  However, it claims the life of one person a week and it places huge financial and resource pressures on our health service. Moreover, it has a huge impact on quality of life, school attendance and work productivity in the Irish population. Unlike so many other problems blighting our health service, we have many of the answers on what can deliver transformative results in asthma care. These initiatives have worked  in other countries and we are calling on the Government to action them in Ireland.”

What do people with asthma need?

1.             Substantially Reduce Cost of Asthma Medication

2.             A Free Annual Asthma Review with their GP

3.             Specialised Hospital Doctors, Nurses and Diagnostics For Children

4.             End the Post-Code Lottery for People with Severe Asthma

5.             Re-visit the National Clinical Program for Asthma

6.             An Inhaler Can Save a Life

7.             Eradicate Outdoor Air Pollution

8.             Protect Indoor Air Quality

9.             Reduce The Tobacco Threat

10.          Fund The Asthma Society’s Essential Programmes


Key Stats about Asthma:

•               470,000 Irish people have asthma, including one in five children

•               One Irish person dies every week as a result of their asthma – of these deaths, 90% are preventable

•               Every 26 minutes someone in Ireland visits an Emergency Department with asthma - uncontrolled asthma is dangerous

•               Asthma costs the state over €500 million per annum

•               Children miss 12 days of school per year and adults miss 10 work days a year due to their asthma

•               Ireland has the fourth highest prevalence of asthma in the world

•               3.13 days - the average length of stay with an asthma hospital admission

•               5000+ - the number of asthma admissions to hospital every year

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