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Asthma Australia urges better compliance with guidelines following misdiagnosis research

18th January 2017

Asthma Australia urges better compliance with guidelines following misdiagnosis research

Asthma Australia is urging doctors to use objective lung function tests to diagnose asthma after research shows misdiagnosis rates may be high.

A Canadian study1 released today shows that one third of the participants may have been misdiagnosed with asthma and were able to gradually stop taking their medication under guidance from doctors.

Asthma Australia CEO, Michele Goldman says the research shows that general practitioners who don’t use lung function tests can get it wrong, and urges general practitioners to follow the asthma management guidelines: “Asthma can be difficult to diagnose as symptoms could be attributed to a number of conditions. The gold standard for diagnosis of asthma is spirometry testing which measures lung function. This research shows how important lung function testing is and that diagnosis should not be made based only on symptoms or response to treatment.”

The consequences of overdiagnosis could be side effects from treatment, unnecessary costs to patients and the healthcare system and missing another important diagnosis.

The research was conducted between 2012 and 2016 and included more than 600 adults who had been diagnosed with asthma in the previous 5 years.

Researchers found that 33 percent of participants did not have a current diagnosis of asthma after objective testing, and 30 percent who were followed up after 1 year continued to show no clinical signs of asthma.

Asthma affects almost 11 percent of Australians.2

Ms Goldman warned people diagnosed with asthma should be cautious and should not stop taking their medication without first consulting their doctor:

“Anyone who has been prescribed preventer medication for asthma should not stop treatment unless doing so under guidance from a doctor. If you are worried that you have been misdiagnosed or have concerns about your symptoms, it’s very important to seek medical advice as suddenly stopping medication can increase the risk of an asthma attack.

People who have not been diagnosed with asthma but have symptoms such as coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath, should speak to their general practitioner. If asthma is suspected patients can ask for a lung function test from their doctor.”

As asthma can change over time it is also important that people with asthma see their doctor at least once a year for a review and to update their asthma action plan.

Media enquiries: Annette Stenhouse 0416 861 732

Michele Goldman is available for interview



2 National Health Survey 2014-15, Australian Bureau of Statistics

About Asthma Australia

For over 50 years Asthma Australia and Asthma Foundations have been the leaders in asthma health care, research and support. Asthma Australia delivers evidence-based preventative health strategies to over 200,000 people every year and provides support, training and resources to the primary health care sector. They fund vital basic science and population health research contributing to national and international understandings of asthma and how best to manage the disease.

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