According to research at the Queen Mary University of London, more than 25% of patients with asthma overuse their rescue inhalers, which puts them at an increased risk of severe asthma attacks. The study was published in the British Journal of General Practice.
The authors performed a cross-sectional study utilizing clinical data from primary care records to quantify the prevalence and identify the predictors of overprescribing short-acting beta-agonist (SABA) inhalers. The data population included nearly 31,000 people with asthma; patient demographics, asthma management, comorbidities, and prescriptions for asthma medications were subsequently analyzed.
Of the patients overusing their rescue inhalers, nearly a quarter of those were also underusing preventative (eg, corticosteroid) inhalers, which raised concerns about inadequate prevention in people with significant asthma burdens.
Co-author of the study, Paul Pfeffer, MD, PhD, remarked, “There is an ongoing major burden of inappropriate and dangerous rescue inhaler overuse in asthma, and our paper highlights the complexity of the problem with multiple reasons patients are over-prescribed SABA inhalers. The findings are a call for more detailed research into interventions to reduce inappropriate SABA overuse in different patient groups.”
In addition, the researchers noted that the prescription of inhalers varied widely between practices. They found that some practices overprescribed up to 6% of their asthma patients, while others overprescribed as many as 60%. The authors wrote, “the current study results highlight the importance of general practice teams working effectively with pharmacists to ensure a shared understanding on access to SABA medications. In some cases this may require removing SABA medications from repeat dispensing.”