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Global Burden Of Asthma Set To Rise

Global Burden Of Asthma Set To Rise In The Next 20 Years

Auckland 6 May, 2003: New research released today, World Asthma Day 2003, from "The Global Burden of Asthma", a report authored by New Zealander Professor Richard Beasley on behalf of the World Health Organisation, estimates a marked increase in the number of patients with asthma worldwide in the next 20 years. The report, which will be launched in full next year, says that the burden of asthma in many countries is significant enough to warrant priority recognition in government health strategies 1.

Conservative figures estimate that there are currently 300 million asthmatics worldwide1 and this figure is set to increase as communities adopt a more western lifestyle and become urbanised. By 2025, the projected increase in the proportion of the world's urban population is predicted to grow from 45% to 59%. Therefore in the next two decades there is likely to be a significant increase of new asthma cases 2 translating to a greater burden on society.

The social and economic impact of asthma is currently substantial in terms of both direct and indirect medical costs, which are estimated to exceed those of TB and HIV/AIDS combined3. The global figures reported today reflect the situation in New Zealand.

Asthma costs New Zealand more than $825 million per year according to The Burden of Asthma4, a report prepared by Professor Beasley and Dr Shaun Holt for the New Zealand Asthma and Respiratory Foundation. The report, published in December 2001, said the costs were in primary care services, hospital care, pharmaceuticals and costs such as days of work lost, loss of healthy life due to disability and premature death.

The New Zealand report said asthma affected one in six New Zealanders – one of the highest asthma rates in the world – and that New Zealand also had one of the highest hospital admission rates for asthma. Asthma is the third highest-ranking specific disease in terms of Years Lost to Disability (ie years in which a person is too unwell to enjoy a productive life as they normally would).

Asthma is a serious disease and without proper treatment the patient can be constantly chasing their symptoms and living in fear of their next asthma attack. Treatment objectives recommend regular maintenance therapy with the goal of allowing patients to live a symptom free life. The addition of a long-acting beta2-agonist to an inhaled corticosteroid is the recommended treatment strategy for patients with persistent symptoms of asthma5, for those not controlled on low dose inhaled steroids.

Notes to Editor:

Asthma is a two-component disease, consisting of chronic airway inflammation and smooth muscle dysfunction, including bronchoconstriction.

References: 1.Masoli, M, Fabian, D, Holt, S, Beasley, R, The Global Burden of Asthma, World Health Organisation Interim Report. May 6th, 2003.

2. Fifty facts from the World Health Report 1998: Global health situation and trends 1955-2025. The World Health Report 2001

3. Bronchial Asthma. World Health Organisation Fact Sheet No. 206. Revised January 2000

4. Dr Shaun Holt, P3 Research, Professor Richard Beasley, Medical Research Institute of New Zealand, The Burden of Asthma in New Zealand, Asthma and Respiratory Foundation of New Zealand (Inc.). December 2001.

5. Global Initiative for Asthma, National Institutes of Health, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Global strategy for Asthma management and prevention. NIH publication number 02-3659. February 2002

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