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Newly listed drugs offer hope for people with severe asthma

MEDIA RELEASE

20th December 2016

Newly listed drugs offer hope for people with severe asthma

People with severe asthma will now be able to access additional medications via the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) when their asthma cannot be managed with existing treatments. 

Asthma Australia says that the listing of tiotropium (Spiriva Respimat) and mepolizumab (Nucala) is a welcome move and could help people whose lives are gravely impacted by severe asthma symptoms. 

Asthma affects almost 11 percent of Australians and 5-10 percent of these have severe asthma. 

“For people who have severe asthma and have exhausted other treatment options, the listing of these drugs is a ray of hope. Severe asthma can be difficult to treat and in some cases can diminish someone’s ability to work, perform household tasks and can impact on family and friends who provide practical and emotional support,” said Michele Goldman, CEO of Asthma Australia. 

A report released earlier this year, Severe asthma ‐ uncovering the reality details the lived experiences of people diagnosed with severe refractory asthma. The condition is a form of asthma that has debilitating symptoms and cannot be adequately controlled with available treatments. 

Dr Juliet Foster is one the report’s authors; “Severe refractory asthma can affect all aspects of a person’s life, including work, home life, parenting, socialising and relationships. As well as the often daily debilitating physical symptoms, the condition takes a very serious emotional toll.” 

Nucala has recently been made available in Australia as a new treatment option for very severe asthma. Eligible patients being treated by an asthma specialist will be able to access Nucala with PBS reimbursement from 1 January 2017. Spiriva will be PBS reimbursed from 1 February 2017 for eligible adults diagnosed with severe asthma.  

Asthma Australia actively supports the development of new treatments and PBS listing of innovative medications for asthma. 

Ms Goldman said, “Asthma Australia’s National Research Program offers a range of grant and scholarship opportunities for researchers to discover more about asthma and asthma treatments in order to improve available treatment options. This is a vital part of the work we do in supporting people with asthma to breathe better. 

We believe that asthma should not be a barrier to leading a full and happy life and encourage anyone whose asthma symptoms are impacting their life to talk to their doctor about improving asthma control.”

Both medications are add-on treatments for people with severe asthma taking maximal preventer treatment, but who still experience poor control or severe asthma flare-ups. 

Nucala is an injectable medication targeting eosinophilic asthma that works to reduce inflammation in the airways. It has been shown to improve health-related quality of life, reduce asthma flare-ups and the need for oral steroids. 

Spiriva Respimat is an inhaled medication that relaxes the muscles around the outside of the airway and keeps them relaxed for several hours. When used as an add-on treatment to preventer medication it may improve lung function and reduce asthma flare-ups.

Media enquiries

Annette Stenhouse 0416 861 732

Asthma Australia CEO Michele Goldman is available for interview

 

 

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