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December 2020

New campaign to boost uptake of biologics for severe asthma



Asthma UK has launched a major campaign to help identify people with uncontrolled asthma so that they can be urgently assessed and considered for referral for life-changing biologic treatments.

Every year, an estimated 1.3 million adults with asthma need oral corticosteroids (OCS) to treat a severe asthma attack, but if taken repeatedly, or for a long period, they can cause debilitating side-effects including diabetes and obesity and also increase the risk of serious illness from respiratory infections, including coronavirus.

Asthma UK is now campaigning for increased referrals for people with severe asthma to assess their eligibility for biologics, hailed as a ‘game-changer’ by those suitable for treatment. Clinical trials have found that for those with severe asthma, using biologics can reduce asthma attacks by up to half and can reduce and even stop the need for OCS.

The charity estimates that as many as 46,000 people eligible for these treatments are still missing out, and says complacency over the seriousness of asthma and a lack of awareness of biologics could explain why the uptake has been sluggish.

Dr James Calvert, Respiratory Consultant South West Asthma Network/North Bristol NHS Trust, said that without a referral people with severe asthma could not benefit from ‘this new generation of therapies which have seen fantastic uptake for the treatment other chronic conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, where steroid therapy is no longer over-used. It’s about time severe asthma got the same treatment.’

Practice Nurse 2020;50(10):7