Ageing population, air pollution to lift asthma meds uptake

The asthma medicines market is set to grow with incoming biologics and climbing disease rates, say market researchers

The asthma therapeutics market in the Asia-Pacific region is expected to grow from $4.1 billion in 2016 to around $6 billion by 2023, according to business intelligence provider GBI Research.

“The large size of the market is driven by high prevalence rates, particularly among children and the ageing population; the need for long-term reliever and maintenance medication; and the expected launch of high-cost biological therapies,” explains GBI Research in its latest report.

New biologics such as mepolizumab (Nucala) and omalizumab (Xolair) “represent a clear shift towards personalised medicine for the treatment of asthma,” says the research group, adding that the high price of these biologics will drive market sales.

Asthma biologics were launched as an add-on therapy for those with moderate to severe asthma that does not respond adequately to inhaled corticosteroids.

“The level of innovation in asthma drug development is greater than that seen historically, which is a cause for optimism,” says GBI Research.

Increases in air pollution will also play a role in the uptake of asthma medicines, it says.

Studies have linked exposure to air pollution in childhood with asthma and other allergic diseases.

The pollutants that have been implicated are particulate matter <2.5 and <10 μm in diameter (PM2.5 and PM10) and gases such as nitrogen dioxide (NO2), nitric oxide (NO), nitrogen oxides (NOX) and ozone (O3).

What Aussie pharmacists can do

Rates of asthma are rising steadily, according to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

In 2014-15, 10.8% of Australians (2.5 million people) had asthma, up from 9.9% in 2007-08.

According to the Global Asthma Report in 2014, Australia is one of the countries with the highest prevalence of asthma in the world, along with Northern and Western Europe and Brazil.

And despite medical advances, the disease is not necessarily well-controlled throughout the population.

A 2012 survey published in the Medical Journal of Australia found that while asthma was considered “well controlled” for 54% of participants, it was “not well controlled” for 23% and “very poorly controlled” for a further 23%.

Pharmacists are able to play a role in improving control rates among patients.

For example, a 2013 study co-authored by UTS Dean of Pharmacy, Professor Charlie Benrimoj, showed community pharmacist intervention can increase and improve asthma control in patients compared to usual care.

The trial found that in the pharmacist intervention group, the proportion of patients with controlled asthma significantly increased from baseline (28%) to the intermediate visit (43%), and from the intermediate visit to the final visit (58%).

At the end of the study, asthma was controlled in significantly more patients in the intervention group than in the control group, the researchers concluded.

One way pharmacists can intervene is to proactively check patients’ inhaler technique, reminds the National Asthma Council Australia.

Research shows that 75% of participants using an inhaler for two to three years thought they were using their inhaler correctly, but objective analysis revealed only 10% had the correct technique, said the council.

“Many health professionals don’t realise how common poor technique is, nor how big an impact this can have on asthma and COPD management,” says National Asthma Council Australia asthma and respiratory educator, Judi Wicking.

“The good news is that correcting patients’ inhaler technique has been shown to improve lung function, quality of life and asthma control,” says Wicking.

For more information, the council has recently released its latest handbook, which outlines the national guidelines for asthma management: you can access it here.

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