Pharmacists urged to check patient inhaler technique

boy wtih asthma uses reliever puffer

Australian research shows up to 90% of patients incorrectly use their inhalers for asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

The National Asthma Council Australia is urging pharmacists and other health professionals to “proactively” check their patients’ inhaler technique.

While around 2.5 million Australians have asthma, confidence in inhaler technique is usually misplaced, says the organisation.

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.

Groups most likely to use inhalers incorrectly include young children, older adults, people with severe airflow limitation, and people using more than one type of inhaler device.

Poor technique can lead to a 50% higher risk of hospitalisation for asthma or COPD, it says.

“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.

Pharmacists and other healthcare professionals should first check their own inhaler technique given their important role in correcting others.

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

In response to the findings the National Asthma Council has released an updated information paper developed by a multidisciplinary team of experts in inhaler technique.

The 12-page paper includes checklists for using the expanding range of new respiratory devices available on the market, and looks at 10 devices in total.

It can be downloaded as a PDF file or ordered as a printed copy that can be kept in the pharmacy for easy referral.

“The paper reflects the advice in the Australian Asthma Handbook, which recommends that inhaler technique should always be checked before considering dose escalation or add-on therapy,” says Wicking.

The organisation has also released how-to videos involving a guide and a patient demonstrating correct techniques for each device, including how to load and use some inhalers, spacers and nasal allergy sprays.

The National Asthma Council Australia is a collaboration of four member bodies, including the PSA, RACGP, Australian Primary Health Care Nurses Association (APNA) and the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy.

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