Lack of awareness and financial constraints among the needy are affecting the management of asthma, an ailment that requires lifelong medication. The general trend, witnessed worldwide, is that the incidence of asthma continues to rise owing to two major factors, environmental and lifestyle, doctors maintain.
All over the world, roughly, there are close to 300 million asthma patients, of which 30 million are in India. By 2025, another 100 million will be added to the 300 million patients. One in every 250 deaths worldwide is asthma-related. Studies conducted by a host of agencies indicate that the prevalence of asthma among youngsters is 15 to 20 per cent in Hyderabad. “Pollution and obesity due to consumption of junk food are two important factors for rise of asthma cases among youngsters. Awareness on management of asthma is also low,” says Dr. K. Subhakar, pulmonary medicine, Osmania Medical College.
Another factor impacting the management of asthma is the lack of commitment on the part of patients. “Ninety per cent of children suffer from relapse because they don’t follow doctor’s advice properly. There is also a stigma attached to the use of inhalers,” feels senior paediatrician Dr. P. Sudershan Reddy.
“Asthma occurs when patients get exposed to allergens. “There is a plant called ‘touch me not’. The moment we touch this plant’s leaves, they react and shrink. Similarly, the airways to the lungs also constrict or narrow down when exposed to allergens. The narrow airways have to be dilated or widened by inhalers,” explains Dr. Subhakar.
Another factor that affects proper management of asthma is the cost of treatment as patients have to take medicines lifelong. Typically, depending on the dosage and condition of the patient the monthly cost of inhalers will hover between Rs. 200 and Rs. 800, which is a burden.
“There is a need for pharmaceutical companies to bring down costs. The government also has to adopt asthma management, at least for the needy, in its national health programmes, which could potentially reduce the costs,” says Dr. Subhakar.