Asthma patients skipping meds because of costs

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imgresby Bernie English [email protected]

MORE than 3,600 Limerick people suffering from a potentially fatal medical condition are not taking vital medication because of the cost.

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18,443 people in Limerick are living with asthma, a condition that claims the life of one person in Ireland every week and, despite being incurable, it does not carry an entitlement to a medical card.

Yet, despite the risk, 20 per cent of asthma sufferers are not using vital medication because of the cost, which runs between €80 and €140 a month,

And, according to figures from the Asthma Society of Ireland, 40 per cent of asthmatics are not using their medication as prescribed, in some cases taking reduced doses while 24 per cent travel outside the country where it is cheaper and can be bought without prescription.

“We also know that 60 per cent of the population don’t have their asthma under control. We don’t want to scaremonger, but between 50 and 60 people die every year from asthma and that is not necessarily among patients who are severely affected”, Niamh Kelly, Head of Policy and Research told the Limerick Post.

Often, the people who get into severe trouble are the ones who have a milder form and are not on top of it. The vast majority of these deaths are preventable. This is unacceptable,” she said.

During an asthma attack, the tissue in the lungs swells, narrowing the airways, causing severe breathlessness. In a very severe attack, the sufferer may be unable to breathe and will need emergency treatment.

Attacks can be triggered by anything from allergies to common irritants like dust or animal fur, to exertion or changes in air temperature.

The Asthma Society is now pressing for funding for a national programme which would entitle asthmatics to a yearly, if not six-monthly review.

According to the Society, there are more than 5,000 admissions a year to hospital for asthma treatment, with the average cost of admission amounting to €2,737.

Commenting on the results of their survey, Asthma Society chief executive Sharon Cosgrove said the resilience and personal strength of people with asthma is remarkable.

“They are limiting their activity levels, giving up hobbies and withdrawing from social and family life because of their asthma. They are embarrassed about taking medication publicly; they are being teased and seen as lazy, overweight and inactive. These are very significant impacts on wellbeing. We are calling on the Government to take these findings under advisement and support a new approach to asthma management”, she said.