Patients with asthma are often not taught how to use their medical devices properly, a charity has warned. Asthma UK said in some cases poor technique led to people being put on stronger inhalers than they actually needed. The charity is calling for better training for patients and NHS staff. The warning comes after a separate US study revealed only 7% of asthma sufferers were found to use asthma inhalers in the right way, researchers reported in Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
Study leader Dr Rana Bonds from the University of Texas Medical Branch said the results suggested people weren’t properly trained in using the devices in the first place or “forgot the instructions over time”.
Maureen Jenkins, clinical director of Allergy UK, said she was not at all surprised by the findings.
“We have just finished a leaflet on allergic asthma which talks about proper use of these devices.” She added that pharmacists were ideally placed to talk patients through using the devices when they picked them up from the chemist”.
Dr Samantha Walker, director of research and policy at Asthma UK, said even though in theory everyone with an inhaler should have their technique checked annually, figures showed a third of people with asthma make mistakes with their inhalers. And many of these mistakes are significant enough to reduce the effectiveness of their treatments. “This is also hugely wasteful – asthma-prescribing is one of the most expensive areas of cost for the NHS, costing almost £1bn annually.
“You wouldn’t give someone a new car without them having driving lessons first, so if you are going to invest in prescribing a lifetime of asthma medicines, it’s crucial that healthcare professionals ensure that their patients know how to use them.”
Community pharmacies offer patients living with respiratory conditions a Medicines Use Review (MUR) service, which aims to improve outcomes for patients by enhancing how medicines are used. This includes establishing the patient’s actual use, understanding and experience of taking their medicines; identifying, discussing and resolving poor or ineffective use of their medicines – such as poor inhaler technique; identifying side effects and drug interactions that may affect adherence; improving the clinical and cost effectiveness of prescribed medicines and reducing medicines wastage.