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  • Clinical
  • 14 Feb, 2024

Statement in response to BBC Morning Live segment on asthma (broadcast on 12 February 2024) 

As a community of expert respiratory professionals, we, the UK Clinical Pharmacy Association (UKCPA) Respiratory committee, are concerned about the potential patient danger from misinformation broadcast about asthma and its treatment discussed during the BBC Morning Live programme on 12 February 2024.  

Whilst this information was given by a doctor, it is inaccurate and we reject the claims made. We call for the recording to be removed from BBC iPlayer and social media, and an apology and declaration issued that this was inaccurate information. 

Asthma is an inflammatory condition affecting people of all ages. We have the worst asthma outcomes in the UK compared to Europe and asthma still kills, as highlighted in various national reports including the National Report on Asthma Deaths 2014 and All-Party Parliamentary Group for Respiratory Health 2020/2022.  Uncontrolled asthma can lead to an asthma attack, some attacks may be more severe and life threatening. With correct management and use of medicines, asthma can be controlled and asthma deaths are largely preventable.

  • Claims made in the broadcast that coffee and a dehumidifier could manage asthma symptoms and exacerbations are wholly inaccurate, dangerous and contrary to national and international asthma management guidelines. 
  • Whilst caffeine is chemically related to a medicine used to open up airways it has its own side effects and is much less effective than steroids - implying otherwise misrepresents evidence and national/international treatment guidelines. 
  • The statement that inhalers, including steroids are ‘old fashioned with quite a lot of side effects’ is also misrepresentative. The majority of people with asthma require low to moderate doses of inhaled steroids which are not related to osteoporosis or diabetes etc as mentioned in the broadcast.
  • Whilst referred to in the broadcast as an ‘older therapy’, inhaled steroids are an established, evidence based, effective pillar of asthma treatment and necessary to reduce and manage the airway inflammation which is present and that patients may not be able to ‘feel’.
  • Inhalers require appropriate inhalation technique to enable the medicine to reach the lungs, hence the right inhaler device to suit the patient’s ability and education is important for maximal benefit.  Used appropriately, inhaled steroids are well tolerated with little or no side effects (rinsing the mouth out after inhalation and the use of a spacer device with metered dose inhalers is also recommended to minimise local effects as mentioned above).
  • Inhaled steroid containing therapy should be used regularly as directed by the healthcare team, this will also reduce the need for ‘reliever’ inhalers (usually Salbutamol) which only provide temporary relief, do not address inflammation, and can make people feel more anxious and racing heart with overuse.
  • Whilst biologic agents (monoclonal antibodies) are used in the treatment of severe asthma (including Benralizumab mentioned), they are a specialist therapy for a select type of asthma and not suitable for everyone and will not work for all people with asthma.  Furthermore, there is no longer term evidence that concurrent inhaled medicine can or should be stopped if using biologic agents and it is irresponsible to suggest so.
  • Well controlled asthma keeps people feeling well, able to go about their daily activities and avoid unnecessary admission to hospital. It also has a lower carbon footprint; hence, is better for the environment.
  • Following the BBC programme it is important that patients do not stop taking their inhalers and can identify triggers that worsen their asthma and work with their health professionals to get the best out of their treatment, including having a Personalised Asthma Action Plan.  
  • Your local pharmacist can advise how best to use and care for inhalers and spacer devices and return them to pharmacy for disposal. If you have further questions, contact your local respiratory nurse/ pharmacist/ professional and visit the Asthma Lung UK website for more patient information Asthma + Lung UK (asthmaandlung.org.uk).

Ms Ravijyot Saggu 
UKCPA Respiratory Committee Chair
On behalf of the UKCPA Respiratory committee

Mr Patrick Wilson
Dr Anna Murphy
Dr Toby Capstick
Ms Sarah Poole
Ms Helen Edwards 

Acknowledgements to Mrs Helen Meynell

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