5 reasons your asthma medicine might change

If you're wondering why your asthma medicine has been changed, find the answers here.

1. To help improve your worsening asthma symptoms

"Your doctor will usually change your medicine to improve your asthma symptoms by reducing sensitivity and swelling in your airways. This could mean giving you a new type of medicine, or an extra medicine," says Asthma UK nurse Kathy.

This might happen if:

  • you’ve been to see your GP about your symptoms getting worse
  • you’ve had an asthma attack recently and need different medicines to try and stop it happening again.

What to do next: 

  • Give it a try. "If your medicine’s been changed for one of these reasons, our advice is to give it a try. Then see if you start coughing or wheezing less and feeling better," says nurse Kathy.
  • See our top tips on getting used to your new medicines.

2. Because your GP’s noticed you’re using your reliever inhaler more

"Needing to use your reliever inhaler a lot is a red flag to your doctor that your asthma needs sorting out," says nurse Kathy. "Your doctor will usually prescribe a different type of preventer medicine to help control the inflammation in your airways and reduce your symptoms."

This might happen if:

  • You’re using your reliever inhaler three or more times a week, or going through 12 relievers a year (if this is you, don’t wait to be called in – book an appointment to get your asthma checked).

What to do next:

  • Keep an eye on how often you're using your blue inhaler. "The whole point of this new preventer medicine is to get your asthma symptoms down, so you don’t find yourself reaching for your blue inhaler so often," says nurse Kathy. "If you use your new medicine but still need your reliever three or more times a week, we’d advise making an emergency GP appointment."

3. To give you a more effective inhaler device (with the same medicine)  

This might happen if:

  • You’ve struggled to use an inhaler properly, and the doctor or nurse feels a different device could be easier for you to use.
  • Your symptoms were getting worse, and you need a different inhaler device that gives you a larger dose of the same medicine you were taking before.

What to do next: 

4. To save the NHS money

Different companies produce copies of the most commonly used inhalers and these may be cheaper for the NHS to buy – a bit like own-brand supermarket baked beans or cola.

"I tell my patients to give it a try and let me know if they have any problems," says Asthma UK's in-house GP Dr Andy Whittamore. "Usually they find it's just as good as their old medicine."

This might happen if: 

  • You're on an older, more expensive form of medication, like the Accuhaler device.

What to do next: 

  • Check the dose - is it different now? This is really important, and the main thing to check with your pharmacist if you notice the brand has changed.
  • Ask for instructions on using your new inhaler, or watch our simple how-to videos.
  • Go back to your pharmacist or GP if something’s not agreeing with you. If you can’t get on with the replacement, you can always go back to your GP and ask them to re-prescribe your original medicine.

Last updated February 2019

Next review due December 2021