New 2 in 1 inhaler combination a major step forward in asthma management

In a recently released international study, researchers have found that a new combination inhaler containing budesonide and salbutamol significantly reduces the risk of severe asthma attacks in adults and adolescents. The study found that participants were 26% less likely to experience severe asthma attacks when using the combined inhaler, rather than the reliever inhaler by itself.

Professor Richard Beasley, a co-author of the study and a member of the Foundation’s Scientific Advisory Board, says this new finding provides further evidence that the 2 in 1 reliever therapy approach is superior to the historic single reliever inhaler approach. “Futhermore, it means there will soon be alternative products available for the 2 in 1 reliever therapy approach, with some doctors and patients likely to prefer the budesonide-salbutamol inhaler.”

Currently in New Zealand, the only combined 2 in 1 inhaler, containing a preventer and a fast-onset, long acting reliever, is the budesonide/ formoterol combination inhaler.

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Not all Kiwi kids breathing easier, despite drop in asthma rates

The latest statistics from the Ministry of Health show a significant drop in the number of children with asthma over 2020/2021 in the past year, the lowest rate in 10 years. However, the rates amongst Māori and Pacific children remain disproportionately high.

Overall, the rate for children being diagnosed and treated for asthma over 2020/21 was 11.9%, down from 13.7%. The greatest decrease was seen in the 2 to 4-year-age group, where the rate dropped from 11.7% to 6%. Foundation Medical Director Dr James Fingleton says the significant drop amongst pre-schoolers, was most likely due to a combination of factors, however the health protection measures in place for Covid-19 will have played a part. “Due to our closed borders and Covid health measures, pre-school children have not had the same exposure to illnesses that cause respiratory symptoms, which can lead to a later diagnosis of asthma. It will be interesting to see if the downward trend continues as the borders reopen.”

The statistics found that Māori and Pacific children had the highest rates of asthma, at 16.6% and 16.4%. Boys also experienced higher rates of asthma than girls, 13.7% compared to 10%. Regionally, the West Coast, Taranaki and Tairawhiti had the highest rates of children with asthma, while Canterbury had the lowest.

The rate of children with asthma remains high compared to the rest of the world, with 26 children dying from asthma between 2011 and 2018.

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‘She’ll be right’ attitude to mild asthma problematic

New research has found that people with mild asthma are often complacent and confused about treatment options. The study, which interviewed people with mild asthma from New Zealand, Australian and the UK, found these people had limited knowledge of asthma and took a casual approach to treatment. Often this was due to vague or changing advice from health professionals.

The study highlighted that these attitudes could prove a barrier to moving people with mild asthma onto the 2 in 1 preventer/reliever treatment regime, the recommended best practice treatment. While the 2 in 1 medication was preferred by most participants in the study, as it was easier to manage, some participants were reluctant to change regimes as they didn’t understand why the change was needed or felt that their current preventer-only inhaler provided faster relief of symptoms.

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