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Asthma-related death rate in UK among highest in Europe, charity analysis finds

Analysis carried out by Asthma UK shows that the UK’s average asthma death rate from 2011 to 2015 was almost 50% higher than the average for countries in the European Union.

The rate of asthma deaths in the UK has increased by more than 20% in five years, meaning the UK has one of the worst asthma death rates in Europe, according to an analysis carried out by charity Asthma UK.

The analysis, the results of which were published on World Asthma Day (1 May 2018), found that the UK’s average asthma death rate from 2011 to 2015 was almost 50% higher than the average asthma death rate in the European Union. Of the 33 countries in Europe, only five — Serbia, Turkey, Estonia, Spain and Cyprus — had worse asthma death rates than the UK between 2011 and 2015.

In contrast, Croatia, Bulgaria, Finland, Austria and Germany all saw a decline in asthma-related death rates between 2011 and 2015.

In response to the analysis results, the charity is calling for the NHS to invest in better asthma frontline services, for the government to invest in research for an asthma cure and for healthcare professionals to follow asthma guidelines.

“It is truly shocking that so many people in the UK are dying from asthma attacks, and while other countries are improving, we are lagging behind,” said Samantha Walker, director of research and policy at Asthma UK.

Walker added that, while it was not yet clear why the UK was performing so poorly in preventing deaths from asthma, Asthma UK thinks that a lack of understanding could play a part.

“Asthma kills and we are urging the NHS to invest in better front-line asthma services, for people with asthma to make sure they take their medication properly, and for healthcare professionals to take asthma seriously, diagnose asthma patients effectively and treat them promptly,” she said.

“We’re also calling for funding into more research to find a cure for asthma, so we can stamp out this vicious and unpredictable illness that claims lives.”

A statement from the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee said: “Community pharmacies are already working to make a real difference in this area. Just last year, pharmacies in England identified an estimated 12,500 high-risk asthma patients and referred them for review as part of the 2017/2018 Quality Payments Scheme. Pharmacies also offer Medicines Use Reviews to help people to use their inhalers correctly, and the New Medicine Service to support patients newly diagnosed with asthma.”

In January 2018, the fifth annual survey from Asthma UK found that just 35% of people with asthma are receiving the most basic level of asthma care, and that there was significant variation across the UK in terms of the care available for people with asthma.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2018.20204788

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