Asthma is a common disease that affects an estimated 235 million people worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation.1 A UAE-specific study revealed that as many as 13% of adolescents and their parents have the disease,2 which has a huge impact on individuals but also imposes a significant economic burden. It has been estimated that the annual health cost of asthma in Dubai alone is 88 million dirham.3
The characteristic symptoms of asthma include episodes of breathlessness, wheezing, cough and chest tightness, and can be brought on by exposure to allergens like pollen and dust, cold air and exercise. Symptoms also tend to be worse at night.
Although asthma cannot be cured, however; management can control the disease and reduce the frequency and severity of symptoms, enabling people to lead a good quality of life. This is usually achieved by using inhaled medication. Unfortunately for many people, having perfectly controlled asthma is out of reach and the reality is; they experience regular exacerbations (symptom flare-ups).
A new option that delivers medicine via a unique inhaler that creates an easy-to-inhale low-speed mist has helped asthma patients significantly by improving their symptoms (68% more likely to improve asthma control than people on standard therapy4), and reducig the risk of severe exacerbations by 21%.5
“Exacerbations are a sudden flare-up of symptoms and can be very scary for the person experiencing them,” explained Dr Bassam Mahboub, Head of Allergy and Respiratory Department, Rashid Hospital, Dubai, and Head of Emirates Allergy and Respiratory Society.
“In severe cases exacerbations, can even be life threatening,” he added. In a study of people with asthma conducted by Dr Mahboub, two thirds had suffered sudden severe episodes of asthma over the course of the preceding year, about 40% had such attacks at least twice a year and 11% of children and 3% of adults had to be hospitalized for asthma.6
Dr Mahboub said these unexpected symptom flare-ups have a significant impact on people with asthma, contributing to missed days from school or work, reduced activity levels, fatigue, and anxiety. Despite current treatment options, almost one in two people with asthma still experience symptoms.7–9
Mohammed Al Tawil, General Manager, Boehringer Ingelheim, Middle East and Near East Area, said that the high numbers of patients with uncontrolled asthma clearly indicates that new treatment innovations are needed to provide healthcare professionals and patients with more options.
“Asthma is a major health issue for us here in the UAE,” Mr A Tawil said. “The number of patients being diagnosed increases every day, but unfortunately the current reality is that many of those patients will struggle to get their asthma completely controlled.”
“This is why I’m particularly pleased that we have received approval to make a new treatment available here, helping patients stay in front of their asthma, and bringing total control a step closer,” he said.
A new website for patients with asthma – THINK. ACT. BREATHE. (www.thinkactbreathe.com) – is also being launched and will help patients monitor their symptoms and provide advice.
Mr. Al Tawil said Boehringer Ingelheim has a long heritage in developing revolutionary medicines for respiratory diseases including asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and more announcements were expected next year.
Dr. Mahoub urged patients with uncontrolled asthma to talk with their doctor to discuss ways to improve their symptom management. “There are a number of simple things patients can do to improve their asthma symptoms, such as avoiding triggers, giving up smoking, eating healthy and exercising regularly,” Dr. Mahoub said. “It’s also important for patients to regularly review their medications with their doctor to make sure they’re on appropriate treatment,” he added.