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Survey: Asthma Control Still Poor

1 in 4 Asthma Patients Seek Emergency Treatment
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Feb. 18, 2010 -- Asthma patients know more than they did a decade ago about controlling their disease and have better medications to do it with. But a new nationwide survey finds little decline in hospitalizations or ER visits over the last 10 years.

Based on a survey of 2,500 patients who reported having at least one asthma attack during the past year, researchers concluded that there has been little meaningful improvement in some key markers of asthma control, including hospitalizations, ER visits, and time missed from work or school due to asthma.

The private research group SRBI Inc. conducted the 2009 survey. It was paid for by drugmaker Schering-Plough, which funded a similar survey in 1998. Schering merged with Merck & Co. late last year.

Among the major findings:

  • 7% of patients surveyed reported having been hospitalized for their asthma over the previous year. That’s the same percentage as in 1998. 
  • 16% of patients reported having their asthma treated in hospital emergency departments over the previous year, compared to 19% in 1998. 
  • In both 1998 and 2009, roughly 1 in 4 patients reported seeking emergency treatment for symptomatic asthma over the previous year, either in hospital ERs or in a doctor's office.

The sampling error of the survey is +/- 2%.

"It is very disturbing to me that there appears to have been no real change in the control of this disease since the last major, nationwide survey was conducted," says asthma specialist Michael S. Blaiss, MD, who co-wrote the survey.

Blaiss is a professor of pediatrics and medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis.

"We have better treatments and we understand this disease much better," Blaiss tells WebMD. "But it is clear that a substantial number of patients are undertreated or do not understand the seriousness of their condition."

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