Timely treatment controls asthma

Chhatra Karki, CNS Correspondent, Nepal
Asthma is a non-communicable disease (NCD) although of the incurable type. It is, however, possible to keep it under control if proper management and treatment is attempted under appropriate supervision from its initial stage. Experts from all over the world consider some precautions to be observed for its control as globally approximately 300 million odd people (in developed and developing nations) are estimated to be suffering from asthma.

People of all age groups can be adversely affected by asthma, though adults and children have been found to be remarkably affected by it. Senior Chest Specialist Dr Dirgha Singh Bam says, “If the treatment of asthma is attempted at its initial stages, it prevents the disease from resulting in lung infections and respiratory complexities. Regular medical consultation is the best way to prevent ourselves from the exposure to risk of respiratory complexities.” However, he says that if the patients once start using asthma medicines, it becomes very difficult for the patient to come out of the drug regimen.

Respiratory complexities are predominantly environmentally borne diseases. Lately, the number of asthma patients has been increasing remarkably, perhaps due to pollution in environment caused by dust, smoke and so on. Different poisonous gases produced by automobiles and production industries have vitally contributed in the growth of the disease.

Asthma, a Chronic Respiratory Disorder, is rising as a challenging disease in the world. The number of asthma patients in Western Europe alone has doubled during the last decade. Statistics show a dramatic increment of 60% in the number of people suffering from the disease in USA since 1980. Similarly, approximately 15-20 million population of India is affected by asthma, and 10-15% of the children in the age group 5-11 years suffer from it. According to the WHO data published in April 2011, deaths due to asthma in Nepal reached 1,704 or 1.15% of total deaths.

Asthma can be kept under control through proper diagnosis and by taking effective measures. It can cause huge economic burden in economically backward communities and may also lead to death of the patient if proper and timely care of asthma is not taken. In the USA alone, the annual expenditure incurred on asthma amounts to more than US$ 6 billion.

Many effective measures have been taken to control asthma globally. The WHO and other related organizations have been working for the proper management, treatment and care for this disease. Yet, the patients in many developing nations are away from effective access to its proper treatment and medication. Dr Chiang Chen-Yuan, Director, Department of Lung Health and NCDs at the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union) feels that it is difficult to effectively address proper management of Asthma in economically backward nations, since the medication and treatment are not easily accessible to the people. Dr. Chiang says, “The low affordability of essential asthma medicines is one of the main barriers in providing proper asthma care in low- and middle-income countries. Governments should raise sufficient funds, reduce the reliance on direct payments to finance services, and improve efficiency and equity in order to achieve universal health coverage. Before universal health coverage is in place, revolving drug fund of asthma may help maintain an uninterrupted supply of essential asthma medicines.”

As a result of important meetings at the United Nations in 2011, countries have been preparing strategies to prevent and manage NCDs, including asthma. “However”, rues Dr Karen Bissell, Consultant at The Union, “Many health services are finding it a challenge to introduce asthma management into the general health services. Many are still struggling to access quality-assured essential asthma medicines that are affordable for their populations. We need to increase the commitment of governments and donors to investing in asthma and accompany countries in their efforts to implement asthma management within primary health care and the general health services.”

Chhatra Karki, Citizen News Service - CNS
15 May 2014