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Four out of five UK asthma patients not using pharmacy expertise, study reveals

Practice A study of nine European countries has given the UK one of the lowest rates in western Europe for the use of pharmacists by asthma patients as their main source of information

Just one in five UK asthma patients use pharmacists as a main source of information, an academic study has revealed, one of the lowest rates in western Europe.

Only Finland was lower in its use of pharmacists, where 14 per cent of patients regarded them as a primary source, the study of nine European countries showed.

The survey of 7,457 patients, presented at the annual congress of the European Respiratory Society (ERS) in Barcelona on Wednesday (September 10), found 62 per cent of UK patients used their GP and nearly a third named their nurse as a first port of call. Respondents were asked to choose "their primary source of information about asthma" but could choose more than one source.

More than half of respondents to the survey had not had their inhaler technique checked in the past year

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Use of pharmacists was highest in Austria at 31 per cent, found the research, sponsored by Mundipharma and conducted by researchers from Education for Health in Warwick, the University of Groningen and the University of Aberdeen.

Co-author David Price, chair of primary care respiratory medicine at Aberdeen University, told C+D the role of pharmacy had "maybe been less well proven" in the UK. Professor Price suggested the UK could make better use of the sector, and stressed there had been "phenomenal outcomes" achieved in Australia by improving inhaler technique through pharmacies.

Of the 8,000 patients questioned overall, 91 per cent thought their condition was well controlled – a figure that was matched by UK patients.

But only 20 per cent met the Global Initiative for Asthma classification for being controlled, and the authors said levels of control remained "sub-optimal" across Europe.

Just over half of respondents had not had their inhaler technique checked in the past year and quarter had experienced exacerbations that required oral steroid use.

How can UK pharmacists improve their relationship with asthma patients?

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Leon The Apothecary, Student

Give Pharmacy Technicians the funding to conduct reviews on inhaler technique. An Inhaler Usage Review could identify issues with the usage, technique, storage, and ergonomics for patients using inhalers.

This would have several positive effects on patient's health. Firstly with improved technique comes improved health. Secondly, the amount of inhalers that need to be prescribed by the doctor would be reduced as inhalers are being used more efficiently.

There is of course the issue with making it a funded service, but I believe the potential for savings in one of the sector's most expensive areas far outweighs the idea.

Mike Bereza, Community pharmacist

Can technicians get this type of funding? I thought the pharmacy would get the funding from NHS England meaning the pharmacist would need to be the clinician to do the review as per the SLA. I have never seen an SLA mention a pharmacy technician, has anyone else?

Leon The Apothecary, Student

In a few areas yeah under (what was) PCT control yeah. The PCT Medication Review policy in North Eastern Derbyshire has great success with the service. Have a little look into it and let me know what you think.

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