In its pre-Budget Submission 2021, the Asthma Society of Ireland presented to the Government five ‘asks’ to be considered in the 2021 Budget, which it said would greatly improve the lives of people with asthma in Ireland.
The Asthma Society called on the Government for subsidisation of all asthma medications outlined in steps one-to-four of the GINA guidelines, which categorise medications for the main treatment of asthma for those with mild-to-moderate asthma.

Currently, 380,000 people in Ireland have asthma and 890,000 will develop the condition in their lifetime. It is estimated that more than half of people living with asthma do not have their disease under control, putting them at a higher risk of asthma attacks/exacerbations, hospitalisations, absence from school and work, and even dying due to their condition. One person dies from asthma every week and an estimated 90 per cent of these deaths are preventable. An essential component of asthma control is medication compliance.
The five asks of the Asthma Society were:

▶ Introduce universal full subsidisation of asthma medications.
▶ Expand the national fund for severe asthma medication.
▶ Fund the extension of the current asthma management programme for all people with asthma.
▶ Increase the number of registered Advanced Nurse Practitioners to meet 2 per cent Department of Health guidelines.
▶ Provide the Asthma Society of Ireland with annual core funding.

Speaking about expanding the national fund for severe asthma, Dr Marcus Butler, Medical Director of the Asthma Society of Ireland, said: “It is estimated that 11,400-to-19,000 people live with severe asthma in Ireland.

“… The current level of funding for biologic medication means that most people with severe asthma — whose lives usually improve dramatically from the treatment — are not receiving this treatment and are over-exposed to toxic, less-effective medications. This will negatively impact their quality of life, increase their risk of hospitalisations and HCP visits due to asthma and toxic medication side-effects, and in turn affect attendance at school and work.
“We are calling on the Government to expand the national fund for biologic medication for severe asthma to ensure every person who would benefit from this life-changing treatment has equitable access to it in a timely way.“

Asthma is estimated to cost the State €472 million a year. The Asthma Society has proposed that the extension of the current asthma management programme should include all people with asthma. A universal asthma self-management programme could save the State between €68 and €102 million a year, said the Society, as Ireland records the second-highest hospitalisation rate for asthma across EU countries and is around 50 per cent above the EU average.

This alarming statistic shows that there is an urgent need to improve the management of asthma in primary care, it said.