Time to reform severe asthma services

Written by Pascal Chanez on 8 January 2020 in Thought Leader
Thought Leader

Political action is urgently needed to ensure that the four million European citizens with severe asthma routinely have access to specialist care, writes Pascal Chanez.

Pascal Chanez | Photo credit: AstraZeneca

Despite being a common disease, asthma is highly complex. Severe asthma is a distinct and often debilitating form of asthma, affecting up to approximately 4.2 million Europeans. This can mean a life of frequent exacerbations, visits to the emergency room and hospital admissions. For healthcare systems, severe asthma represents a significant burden – accounting for more than half of total asthma-related costs in some countries.

Severe asthma is under-recognised, and many patients can’t access the timely, specialist care that their condition requires. Patients have reported spending up to seven years on different treatments before referral, which can lead to long-term, potentially avoidable oral corticosteroid (OCS) use, associated with possibly harmful side-effects (when used long-term), such as osteoporosis and diabetes.


While scientific advances in severe asthma have led to a much-improved understanding of the disease, healthcare systems responsible for delivering care have not kept concomitant pace. Systems across the continent need to adapt and a new way of thinking is needed.

The first-ever Severe Asthma Patient Charter from leading experts and advocates establishes a consensus on what patients should expect from their care; timely referral and diagnosis; improved patient information; with access to consistent quality care, relegating OCS to treatment of last resort after careful discussion.

"Severe asthma is under-recognised, and many patients can’t access the timely, specialist care that their condition requires"

Steps need to be taken urgently to reduce the burden of severe asthma by ensuring these principles are embedded in healthcare systems and that all people with severe asthma are routinely treated at the right time, in the right place, with the right treatment.

Partnering with healthcare professionals and patient advocates from around the world, the PRECISION programme is working to fundamentally transform the standard of severe asthma care through innovative approaches to service delivery.

You can learn more about the realities of severe asthma by watching the new BREATHLESS documentary telling the story of three people living with severe asthma and what access to specialist care means to them.

This ThoughtLeader is sponsored by AstraZeneca and the PRECISION Programme



About the author

Pascal Chanez is Head of the Respiratory Diseases Department at Aix-Marseille University, France, and member of PRECISION Programme Global Steering Committee

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