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that advice given to people with asthma
by other health professionals is reportedly
often ignored, the opportunity for the
profession to do more is clear.
Initially, this may involve actually helping to
identify the condition. Asthma symptoms
can be similar to other respiratory problems
but talking to consumers with these
symptoms about their family history,
childhood respiratory events and health
history can help to identify if the symptoms
are the result of asthma.
As the medicine experts, pharmacists are
able to discuss appropriate and effective
use of medications. Pharmacists are
regularly seeing asthma patients not only
in a dispensing role but also in providing
over-the-counter emergency treatment
and are ideally placed to advise on asthma
Pharmacists are able to provide
medication education and this is
important because research has
shown many people do not realise the
importance of regular use of preventer
medication. Many people simply stop
taking preventer medication when they
feel better or if they have any side effects
and this can have long-term negative
consequences for their health outcomes.
We need to better address this and set
up procedures and processes to talk to
consumers buying asthma medications
about their regimens.
Pharmacists can train people to use their
inhalers correctly, a critical function given
some 90% of people with asthma do not
use their inhaler correctly. Compounding
the problem is that most of this 90% think
they using them the right way and this
is another aspect that the NPS training
module seeks to address.
The opportunities for pharmacists
to assume a greater role in asthma
management are clear, and the resources
are there to help us. Pharmacists can make
a significant difference to the outcomes for
patients with asthma.
A number of serious issues have been raised recently about the use of some
asthma medications, according to a report in the Medical Journal of Australia.
The MJA report also notes a trend among
some parents not to consult specialists
they have been referred to, and for
teenagers ignoring the advice of their
GPs. In addition, there have been reports
about incorrect dosages prescribed.
The MJA reported: 'Guidelines for
asthma management are not being
adhered to, and inappropriate
prescribing may be putting children
at unnecessary risk. There has been a
recent increase in deaths, the cause of
which is not clear.'
The MJA found that asthma killed
20 NSW children and teenagers between
2004 and 2013, with older children
being most at risk. While all had been
diagnosed with the condition the report
found 'regular review was uncommon
and only eight of those who died had
seen a specialist'.
The reports comes after some significant
developments in asthma management.
Last year, the National Asthma Council
Australia released new management
guidelines for GPs, pharmacists
and primary healthcare nurses for
diagnosing and managing asthma.
With the new name of the Australian
Asthma Handbook (available at: www.
asthmahandbook.org.au) the fully
revised edition retains the same focuses
on evidence-based, practical advice for
primary care health professionals as the
previous Asthma Management Handbook.
The handbook provides detailed and
relevant advice on issues such as new
diagnostic algorithms for adults and
children, updated stepped medical
management, and inhaler technique
and adherence -- all areas which
pharmacists should be across.
It goes further with information on
new acute asthma protocols, a review
of pregnancy and asthma evidence,
and recognition of impact of preventive
In another development, NPS
MedicineWise has issued a training
module, specifically addressing the area
of inhaler techniques.
The module includes advice on:
• Inhaler skills training for asthma
• When to use a spacer in chronic asthma
• Recommendations for using spacers
in chronic asthma
• Using inhalers in children
• Training children, parents and caregivers
• Using checklists to assess inhaler
• Checklist for dry powder inhalers
• Checklist for pressurised
With these very good resources
available to pharmacists, and the fact
BY GRANT KARDACHI, FPS
NATIONAL PRESIDENT SAYS
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
If you would like to comment on this
article visit www.psa.org.au/membership/
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