Reasons your asthma medicine might change

A change of medicine or device could help you manage your asthma symptoms better

From helping you manage your asthma symptoms, to switching to a low-carbon inhaler or reducing NHS costs, find out why your asthma medicine or inhaler might change.

On this page: 


Managing worsening symptoms  

Your GP or asthma nurse may suggest changing your treatment plan to help you manage your asthma better. This might mean a new type of medicine or device or extra add-on treatments. 

It can sometimes take a bit of time to find the right medicines or inhalers to help you manage your asthma well  

Your GP will consider different medicines or device for you if: 

  • your symptoms are not as controlled as they could be 
  • your symptoms have been getting worse
  • you’ve been using your reliever inhaler three or more times a week
  • you had an asthma attack, and your GP wants to try you on different medicines to try and stop it happening again
  • you’ve been taking your inhaler as prescribed and with good technique but you’re still having symptoms.

See your GP or asthma nurse if:

You're using your reliever inhaler three or more times a week. It's a sign your asthma is not well controlled.

An inhaler that’s easier for you to use 

Your GP or asthma nurse may suggest a different inhaler device that you find easier to use. Different types of inhalers need different breathing techniques to use them well.  

You may have the same medicine, but a different inhaler.  A different type of inhaler could be easier and help you get the right dose of medicine. 

Your GP might suggest a different inhaler device if: 

  • other conditions like arthritis make it hard for you to use your inhaler 
  • it’s hard for you to coordinate breathing in and pressing your inhaler at the same time
  • you struggle to take a forceful breath (for a DPI)
  • you want something that’s easier to carry around or that’s smaller
  • you want or need an inhaler where you don’t need to use a spacer
  • you want an inhaler that has a dose counter on the side
  • you want an inhaler that’s easy to clean.

Your GP, asthma nurse or pharmacist can show you how to use your new inhaler. You can also watch our inhaler videos

Switching to a greener, low carbon inhaler 

The NHS is encouraging everyone on a Metered Dose Inhaler (MDI) to switch to a Dry Powder Inhaler (DPI) if they can. DPIs such as Accuhaler, Easyhaler, and Clickhaler are lower carbon inhalers and better for the planet.  

The switch is good for environmental reasons. Metered Dose Inhalers use propellants that add to global warming and add to the NHS’s carbon footprint. Research has so far shown that switching to a greener, environmentally-friendly DPI inhaler works well for most people.  

As long as your GP or asthma nurse shows you how to use your new inhaler, and you can use it well, changing from an MDI to a DPI is not linked to symptoms getting worse or asthma attacks.  

Most people find dry powder inhalers easier to use than MDIs because it’s easier to get the technique right. Dry powder inhalers are breath-actuated though, which means you need to be able to breathe in strongly to inhale the powder. Not everyone can do this well.  

If you’re asked to switch to a more environmentally-friendly inhaler it’s worth giving the new low-carbon dry powder inhaler a try. Your medicine will continue to work in the same way. But if it really doesn’t suit you, you can ask to switch back.

Reducing NHS costs 

Different companies produce copies of the most used inhalers and these may be cheaper for the NHS to buy.

Your GP may prescribe you a generic inhaler because it works as well, but costs less. The medicine in it will contain the same active ingredients as in the branded inhaler so they should be just as safe and effective. 

Guidelines do not recommend switching to different brands of inhaler if possible. The reason for this is that people get used to the inhaler they’re using, and the technique needed for it.  

If you are given a new inhaler or a different brand, make sure your GP, asthma nurse or pharmacist shows you the best way to use it.  

You should also check the dose of any new medicine or brand. Ask the pharmacist when you pick up your prescription.  

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.  

You can get advice and support if your medicines have changed by calling a respiratory nurse specialist on our Helpline, 0300 222 5800 (9am-5pm; Monday-Friday). Or you can WhatsApp them on 07378 606 728 


Last updated October 2021

Next review due October 2024

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