'All over the world, 2.5 lakh people die of asthma every year; the newer inhalers containing steroids are safe'
With millions of people suffering from different allergies worldwide, an expert has said that new generation anti-histamine drugs to treat them are safe, effective and do not produce sedative effect.
In an interview with The Hindu in connection with a prestigious global medical conference being hosted at Hyderabad International Convention Centre (HICC) here by the World Allergy Organisation (WAO), Dr. Ruby Pawankar, the first woman to head the 35,000-member body has dismissed as non-scientific the treatment of fish medicine to treat asthma.
‘Severe allergies, Severe Asthma: New Strategies for Optimal Treatment and Prevention' is the theme of the four-day event beginning on December 6. Superior infrastructure facilities at HICC and the presence of a number of good hospitals has enabled Hyderabad to bag the event over three other cities, according to Dr. Pawankar. Around 2,500 delegates, including 70 world-renowned experts, are expected to attend the conference. A medical graduate of the Armed Forces Medical College, Pune, she is living in Japan since 20 years. Excerpts:
Q: Which is the most common form of allergy
Around 400 million people across the globe suffer from nasal allergy, followed by 300 million from asthma and 200 million are affected by food allergies. We presume the number of those affected by asthma is under-estimated. All over the world around 2.5 lakh people die of asthma annually. The other types of allergies are those relating to skin, insects and occupation among others.
What are the reasons for rise in asthma cases
Asthma cases are indeed increasing. An international study of asthma and allergies in children found that there was a doubling of asthma in developing countries. Allergies are becoming more complex and severe. Causes could be many, including genetic, lifestyle-related, food allergy and environmental and what is called “hygiene hypothesis”.
Allergens are increasing due to global warming. Climate change and global warming is having an impact on migration of allergens.
Your views on the treatment protocol for allergies
First generation anti-histamine drugs which cause sedation are no longer recommended. We recommend second generation drugs which don't have sedative effect. They are safe and effective. Nasal and skin allergies are controlled by these drugs. Also the newer inhalers containing steroids are safe.
What is WAO's role in combating various types of allergies?
WAO is leveraging internationally with various ministries of health, the UN and WHO to bring allergies on the agenda of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) along with diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular and other ailments. More resources could be garnered if it is declared as an NCD. Deaths due to allergies and asthma are unwarranted. We have to partner to make a reduction in burden of allergic diseases.
How well-developed is the discipline of allergies treatment in India?
It is not well-developed in India. WAO is working closely with Union Ministry of Health to make this a full-fledged specialty. WAO has prepared a position paper on the syllabus for post-graduate and under-graduate courses.
What is your view on fish medicine treatment for asthma?
I have heard about it and feel it is absolutely non-scientific and has no scientific basis. Let someone furnish scientific data on how it cures asthma and I will then believe it.