New ‘take-as-needed’ options to treat mild asthma

Around 15% of asthma deaths occur in people with apparently mild asthma, so good management is important. In an article in the latest edition of Australian Prescriber, Professor Helen Reddel from the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research at the University of Sydney explains the importance of using a preventer medicine in managing asthma, and how the new asthma guidelines include an option of taking a preventer medicine in combination with a reliever medicine ‘as needed’ whenever the patient has symptoms.

The new Australian asthma guidelines were launched in September 2020 and focus on the treatment of mild asthma for adults and adolescents. Most people with mild asthma should be using a preventer inhaler. In addition to the existing recommended treatment of using a daily preventer medicine and using a reliever medicine as needed, a new alternative option is to use a preventer–reliever combination medicine as needed.

“A survey found that 39% of Australian asthma patients had not used an asthma preventer medicine in the last year, with almost half of these buying reliever medicines over-the-counter,” said Professor Reddel.

“Overuse of an asthma reliever inhaler is a sign that the asthma may not be under control and comes with an increased risk of death or needing to go to hospital.

“While it is important for almost all people with mild asthma to use an asthma preventer medicine as well as a reliever medicine, the choice of which of the two treatment options to use (daily preventer or as-needed combination preventer–reliever) will depend on considerations such as personal preference and the ability to use specific inhaler devices correctly,” she says.

Read the full Australian Prescriber article.

As part of an ongoing educational program for health professionals and consumers, NPS MedicineWise has a new Medicinewise News article and webinar for health professionals on what the new guidelines mean for everyday clinical practice.

Read more about the NPS MedicineWise education program on asthma.


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