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New Irish research reveals huge economic burden of asthma

Asthma Society of Ireland says “we are getting asthma management wrong”

New research published today by the Asthma Society of Ireland, confirms the enormity of the asthma burden and contains, for the first time, up-to-date figures on the number of people affected by asthma in Ireland.

Easing the Economic Burden of Asthma – The Impact of a Universal Asthma Self-Management Programme
1 is the first prevalence and impact assessment of asthma since 2001 and confirms the national economic burden of the chronic disease to be €472 million per year. The research supported by a grant from GSK Ireland. Previous estimates into the large-scale impact of asthma on the Irish healthcare system under-estimated the number of people with asthma in Ireland. €102 million is lost each year in potential savings and action is now needed if we are to turn around patient care and reduce the economic impact.

Of the total annual €472 million economic strain, the cost of hospitalisations, emergency department visits and GP consultations accounted for 57% of total direct costs. In 2017, there was an estimated 2.4 million and 625,000 GP and Practice Nurse consultations for asthma respectively. There was also a significant burden in the hospital setting with an estimated 421,000 and 133,000 Specialist and Emergency Department visits respectively, along with almost 8,000 hospital admissions.

Speaking at the launch, CEO of the Asthma Society of Ireland, Sarah O’Connor, said: “The reality of asthma for our health system and our patients is made crystal clear from this research. It tells us that we are getting asthma management wrong – structurally, it revolves solely around the asthma patient in crisis and fails in long-term control.”

“We can see Emergency Department visits and hospital admissions. We can see that, in comparison to other countries in Western Europe, Ireland has the poorest mortality outcome from asthma and one of the highest asthma hospitalisation rates. We can quantify how many GP and nurse consultations are involved at primary care level. Uncontrolled asthma costs the individual and the state – research shows that 60% of Irish people with asthma do not have it controlled.  Sadly, at present, six people in Ireland die every six days as a result of their asthma.”

“This research highlights the value of a universal asthma self-management programme at the macro-level, showing the benefits for the healthcare system, the cost savings and efficiencies and the potential impact of the measure as a whole.”

Marcus Butler, Medical Director of the Asthma Society of Ireland and Associate Professor, UCD/Consultant Respiratory Physician, St Vincent’s University Hospital said: “Everyday in Ireland, children and adults are being treated in emergency departments and out-of-hours GP practices up and down the country for uncontrolled asthma symptoms, when they should instead be facilitated in getting on with their lives with minimal intrusion from what is largely a very treatable condition. International data has suggested that there is substantial global variation in the economic burden of asthma over time, in addition to the ultimate and most tragic cost of asthma, asthma-related death, a largely preventable catastrophic event.”

“Asthma death rates are falling in many developed countries, but alarmingly, they appear to be rising in Ireland. This research contends that a national self-management programme for all asthma patients, irrespective of age, has a high likelihood of substantial cost savings, not to mention the precious safe-guarding of human life and wellbeing that underpins all of our efforts in the asthma community.”

Eimear Caslin, General Manager, GSK Ireland said: “GSK is proud to support this research, which highlights the public health burden of asthma in Ireland. This research is significant as it quantifies this for the first time but also outlines how a national self-management programme could improve asthma patients’ care while reducing costs. GSK has been committed to improving the lives of respiratory patients in Ireland for over 50 years and we are delighted to continue our support for the Asthma Society as part of that.”

Concluding, Sarah O’Connor said: “The economic burden of managing asthma for individual patients is very real and it impacts greatly on healthcare outcomes. A universal asthma self-management programme can reduce both the cost factor and the fear factor in asthma management in Ireland. We wholeheartedly advocate for it, along with a number of other important policy changes aiming to eliminate asthma deaths and transform the lives of people with asthma.

Patients who want help and support to manage their asthma can contact the free Asthma/COPD Adviceline on 1800 44 54 64, where a nurse will assist them.

Results from the Easing the Economic Burden of Asthma research:

  • 890,000 people in Ireland experience asthma at some stage of their life.
  • €472 million:  the amount asthma costs the state per annum.
  • €1,242: The annual average cost of asthma per person.
  • 4 million: the number of asthma GP consultations annually.
  • 625,000: the number of asthma Practise Nurse consultations annually.
  • 8,000: The number of asthma admissions to hospital every year.
  • Four minutes: How often someone in Ireland visits an Emergency Department with asthma.
  • 1 in 13people in Ireland currently have asthma.
  • 1 in 10 children currently have asthma.
  • 1 in 5 children experience asthma at some stage in their life.
  • person every six days as a result of their asthma.
  • Compared to 14 other European countries:  Ireland had the highest death rate from asthma in 2015.
  • Seven: The average number of work days missed every year due to asthma.
  • Five: The average number of school days missed every year due to asthma.
  • Ireland had the second highest rate of asthma hospital discharges in Western Europe in 2016.
  • 40,593: The number of children registered under the Asthma Cycle of Care programme.
  • 68days: Average length of stay with an asthma hospital admission.

ASI – Easing the Economic Burden of Asthma Report


1 The research is being fully supported by a grant from GlaxoSmithKline.  Following a formal tender process, Salutem Insights, a specialised Irish health economics consultancy, were selected to undertake the study. Salutem Insights carried out a similar study on the Cost of Diabetes in Ireland which has been used to advocate for change in how Type II diabetes is managed in Ireland.

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