Affordable quality-assured asthma medicines bring hope to low-income countries

World Asthma Day, 4th May 2010
This World Asthma Day, people suffering from asthma in low- and middle-income countries can find new hope in its theme “You Can Control Your Asthma”, thanks to the Asthma Drug Facility created by the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union). The cost of treating asthma with essential medicines has dropped by nearly half for countries working with the Asthma Drug Facility (ADF), a procurement mechanism that makes it possible for low- and middle-income countries to obtain quality-assured essential asthma medicines at affordable prices. Read more

For example, until this year, the lowest cost for treating a patient with severe asthma through the National Tuberculosis Programme in Benin was 79 euros per year. By ordering through ADF, this cost has been reduced to 48 euros. In El Salvador, the savings per patient for the Ministry of Health’s National Tuberculosis Programme have been even more dramatic – the cost has dropped from 83 to 35 euros per year.

Through ADF, low- and middle-income countries can purchase the qualityassured, affordable asthma medicines they need. The ADF has a quality assurance system based on World Health Organization (WHO) norms and standards. It keeps prices down by having a limited competitive process among selected manufacturers based on yearly estimated volumes. 

Over the past 15 years, helping low- and middle-income countries manage their increasing asthma caseloads has been one of The Union’s lung health priorities. 

“These countries identified the prohibitively high cost of asthma inhalers as a key obstacle to providing asthma care,” said Dr Nils E Billo, Executive Director of The Union. “The ADF was established as a practical, affordable solution to this problem”.

In addition to the National Tuberculosis Programmes, other types of organisations are also taking advantage of ADF services. A nongovernmental organisation, the Kenya Association for the Prevention of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, purchased inhalers through ADF with the support of the World Lung Foundation and will start using them in the coming weeks as soon as the medicines arrive in the country. Another ADF client is the Epi-Lab in Sudan, a public health outreach research centre, which is working closely with the government to put in place a national asthma control strategy.

With the incidence of asthma rising in low- and middle-income countries, the challenges of managing patients with this chronic condition will also increase. Worldwide some 300 million people now suffer from asthma, but the causes of the condition are not well understood.

“Asthma is one of the under-recognised and under-funded lung diseases that The Union and other organisations are trying to bring forward on the public health agenda”, said Dr Billo. “We are pleased to bring new hope to those suffering from asthma, especially in light of the 2010 Year of the Lung campaign. A principal goal of the Year of the Lung is to raise awareness of lung disease and the solutions that are available to mitigate its effects on the lives of patients, families and communities”. 

Countries that would like to implement asthma programmes or integrated approaches to respiratory health may contact The Union at or learn more about the ADF at

The Year of the Lung 2010 is a campaign launched by the Forum of International Respiratory Societies (FIRS) to build awareness of the essential role the lungs play in health and the toll taken by lung diseases. For more information, please visit