Most people are familiar with asthma as a relatively mild condition, but severe asthma is very different in terms of its symptoms, treatment and management.
Severe asthma can affect a person at any age. They may be unable to go to school or work, socialise and carry out daily activities. They are also at risk of premature disability, which can result in financial hardship. Despite severe asthma affecting only 3–10% of people with asthma, it accounts for at least 50% of the disease’s healthcare costs and utilisation.
Severe asthma needs to be recognised as a distinct condition that requires a comprehensive care pathway. People often wait years before being referred to an asthma specialist and offered effective treatment. Access to treatment is highly variable, and overreliance on long-term use of high-dose oral corticosteroids to treat asthma attacks remains common despite recent guideline recommendations.
Optimising the management of severe asthma has more than just clinical benefits. Fewer asthma attacks will mean fewer hospital admissions, alleviating pressures on already stretched health systems and reducing productivity losses. Better management of severe asthma can also help reduce the carbon footprint linked to overuse of inhalers and asthma-related hospitalisations.
There are significant disparities in access to and quality of care for severe asthma. Much of the burden of severe asthma could be avoided by adhering to existing guidelines and quality standards. Embedding globally recognised standards of care for severe asthma into national-level respiratory disease plans is vital to effectively support people living with severe asthma.