access to asthma medication key to reducing deaths

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“Because I take it twice a day you work through that preventer very quickly, you can spend probably $100-plus a month on preventer medication,” she said.

Asthma Australia chief executive Michele Goldman said access to preventer medication was at odds with access to the reliever medication people with asthma need to take once an attack has occurred.

“If you’re doing all the things right, you shouldn’t need to use relievers,” she said.

“But preventers are more expensive. You need a script, got to find the time to get to the doctor, so there’s all these barriers in place.”

Ms Goldman said the peak advocacy body wants to halve the hospitalisation rate by 2030. While she concedes it’s a bold plan, Ms Goldman said given most of those admissions and deaths are preventable means it’s possible to reach the target.

“We know 80 per cent of hospitalisations are avoidable, so these are people who if they had been managing their asthma well, if they had access to good treatment … then it would be realistic to be able to bring that down,” she said.

Conjunct Professor Peter Gibson, director of the Centre of Excellence in Severe Asthma, agreed helping people with access to treatment and specialised care would reduce hospitalisations.

“Simple things like improving the way we deliver existing treatments are likely to have a big impact on people presenting to hospital,” he said.

Grattan Institute health program director Dr Stephen Duckett said he was supportive of pharmacists taking on an expanded role in dispensing preventer medications.

“It’s all about access and where you have a financial barrier which includes potentially going to the GP, then people aren’t able to get the contemporary best treatment,” he said.

Dr Duckett said once a patient had received treatment and advice from their GP and they had been managing their condition that way for at least 12 months, there was “no particular reason” why they shouldn’t be able to get refills of their preventer from a pharmacy.

Ms Wenman said while the medication came with side effects, the hospital trip had made her realise just how important it was to her health.

“It was a massive wake-up call for me, and it could have easily been prevented by me taking my medication correctly,” she said.

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