New treatments for severe asthma

There are about 200,000-250,000 people in the UK with asthma so severe that current treatments are not effective for them.

Not everyone living with asthma has effective treatment options to keep asthma symptoms under control. 

What is the issue?

Without effective treatment options people with a severe forms of asthma are at risk of life-threatening asthma attacks on a daily basis. In order to try to keep their symptoms under control they have to take high doses of inhalers and often rely on oral corticosteroids.

This has a significant impact on people’s quality of life. They have to take significant time off work and school and it often results in people having to reduce working hours or even take medical retirement because they are so frequently unwell and unable to continue to work.

We know that steroids play a very important role in asthma treatment. For most people with asthma they take them through an inhaler in low dosage. However, people with severe asthma often have to take courses of oral corticosteroids. Some may have to take oral steroids every day for many years. This high dosage treatment has a long-term impact on their health and contributes to other conditions including diabetes and osteoporosis.

250,000 adults have asthma so severe that current medicines don't work

What are we proposing?

In order to improve people’s long-term quality of life and health we need new treatments to reduce dependency on oral corticosteroids.

There are emerging new treatments for some forms of severe asthma including allergic asthma but there are still forms of non-allergic severe asthma which do not have effective treatment options. It is important that research funding into non-allergic asthma treatments is prioritised. We know that it can take over 10 years to develop new treatments so it is important that research in this area is prioritised.

In the UK we do not have a registry of all people with severe asthma. This means that the full picture of their long-term care and treatment is being missed. There is a registry for severe asthma patients who are under specialist care but only around 600 people are currently registered. Asthma UK is calling for the registry to include all people with severe asthma. Having more information and data to evidence the impact of severe asthma will help bodies including NICE and the Scottish Medicines Consortium to make decisions about whether to make new treatments available on the NHS. 

What is Asthma UK doing about it?

Asthma UK has been working with researchers across Europe to identify the most promising routes for research into new asthma treatments. The European Asthma Research Innovation Partnership has identified the key research questions that need answering to lead to be new treatments. With additional research funding, from organisations across Europe including Asthma UK, we hope to identify new treatment options.

We are also working to make sure that the need for new treatments is made clear to the bodies across the UK that decide which treatments are available on the NHS, such as NICE and the Scottish Medicines Consortium. We have responded to recent consultations on new treatments and we will continue to make sure that the reality of living with severe asthma and the benefits of new treatment options are considered by these bodies. 

What can you do about it?

If you have severe asthma and want to share your experiences with us we would like to hear from you. If you have been involved in a treatment trial you might be able to help us bring to life the benefits and drawbacks of the new treatment to organisations like NICE and the Scottish Medicines Consortium. 

Contact

If you have any questions about this you can email us at evidence@asthma.org.uk