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New guidelines for asthma treatment

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The Australian Asthma Handbook has been updated, providing information about the latest medications for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The National Asthma Council Australia developed the handbook with an interdisciplinary team of medical experts, and has incorporated feedback from primary care providers.

National Asthma Council Australia chair Professor Amanda Barnard said the guide would clarify any confusion about asthma and COPD drugs.

“New asthma and COPD drugs have come on the market over the last two years, and doctors have expressed confusion about when to use which medication as well as the long-term safety of various options,” Professor Barnard said.

“The [handbook] provides factual information on all the latest medications, including what conditions they treat, how they differ from existing drugs and clarification of their suitability for long versus short-term use.”

Five updates:

  • Consensus advice against use of e-cigarettes, recommending that people with asthma should be discouraged from using e-cigarettes, even for smoking cessation, until further evidence on the risks is available.
  • Clarification of rationale for long-term use of low-dose inhaled corticosteroids, emphasising that this is the recommended treatment for most adults with asthma and aims to reduce risk of flare-ups, even if day-to-day symptoms are infrequent.
  • Evidence-based advice on the roles and uses of new add-on treatment options, including mepolizumab, omalizumab and tiotropium, plus new specific allergen immunotherapy preparations
  • Update of inhaler technique and spacer priming advice to reflect the Asthma Council’s recent information paper on this topic, noting that most patients do not use inhaler devices correctly, providing guidance on how to improve patient technique, and introducing a new table to help clarify which spacers require priming before first use.
  • Increased emphasis on written asthma action plans, highlighting the central recommendation that every adult and child with asthma should have a personalised written asthma action plan

The council has updated its popular Asthma and COPD Medications wall chart; as well as including all the latest inhalers available in Australia, the updated version specifies each medication’s current PBS reimbursement status for asthma and COPD.

The new Allergic Rhinitis Treatments wall chart has also been developed in the same style. The new chart shows the main intranasal treatment options available in Australia for allergic rhinitis.

Related: Over-the-counter asthma prevention

PDF copies of the Asthma and COPD Medications wall chart and Allergic Rhinitis Treatments wall chart are available here.

The updated Australian Asthma Handbook version 1.2, including a full list of amendments, is available here.

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