Updated Australian Asthma Handbook released

National Asthma Handbook launch: woman uses inhaler

The National Asthma Council Australia has released the updated Australian Asthma Handbook (version 1.1), the national guidelines for asthma management in primary care.

The Handbook is published as a unique website, which continues to provide an innovative, up-to-date and accessible resource for health professionals across Australia.

A significant change to the Handbook is the addition of information regarding the newly available combination therapy fluticasone furoate/vilanterol (Breo Ellipta). This medication is a preventer option for adults and adolescents with moderate-to-severe asthma who need a medium-to-high dose inhaled corticosteroid combined with a long-acting beta2-agonist.

“The Handbook provides evidence-based advice about how Breo Ellipta fits into the prescribing framework, highlighting that its recommended role is at the highest level of the stepped approach,” says Professor Amanda Barnard, Chair of the National Asthma Council Australia Guidelines Committee and general practitioner.

“This is important as the medication is not appropriate for everyone with asthma and COPD.

“Rather it is an additional treatment option for the few adults whose asthma remains inadequately controlled on low-dose combination therapy, after checking adherence and inhaler technique.”

The Handbook update was prompted primarily by the addition of the new asthma medication to the PBS, with the National Asthma Council Australia also taking the opportunity to include some minor clarifications in response to user feedback received since the release of version 1.0 in March 2014.

The Handbook continues to emphasise that most adults with asthma need to stay on low-dose inhaled corticosteroid medication long term, once the diagnosis of asthma is confirmed, and now includes more detailed advice to explain the aims of continuing this treatment and the risks of cessation.

Clarification has also been provided on the use of low-dose inhaled corticosteroids in children, where the opposite approach is recommended. These medications should not be continued indefinitely in children and this update highlights the need for primary carers to continually monitor asthma medication in children, including stepping down or ceasing preventer treatment if appropriate.

Other amendments include additional recommendations about trialling cessation of inhaled corticosteroids in adolescents, to distinguish the approach from adults.

“We are committed to ensuring the Handbook is responsive, evolving and current, to continue to provide practical and useful information for primary care and help create better health outcomes for Australians with asthma,” says Prof Barnard.

“The Handbook continues to emphasise a patient-centred approach to asthma management, which is being reflected in the rise of personalised medicine. The guidelines offer support for doctors to develop individual care for their patients with asthma and, increasingly, other chronic diseases.”

Building on the Handbook’s online publication format, the update also includes new website features, including a printable and tablet-friendly version of the complete Handbook, and interactive flowchart figures.

A new version of the popular accompanying Quick Reference Guide is also available, with a few amendments, reflecting the minor Handbook update.

The National Asthma Council Australia has also updated the Asthma and COPD Medications wall chart, which shows the main medications available in Australia.

The updated version reflects the recent developments in respiratory medicine, with almost one-third of the included medications having come onto the market within the past two years.

The popular resource is also a useful education tool for health professionals to help with identification and explanation of different treatments.

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