The Centre of Excellence in Severe Asthma brings together researchers from across Australia. Funded by the NHMRC, we are developing innovative approaches to understand why severe asthma occurs, developing tools and programmes to improve disease management and improving access to new therapies.
In Australia, 10% of the population have asthma, and a subset have severe asthma. People with severe asthma are at risk of severe attacks of asthma and experience persistent symptoms that are often not controlled with treatment. Severe asthma negatively impacts health and quality of life for individuals and their families and represents a major healthcare cost to our society.
What is Severe Asthma?
Not all asthma is the same. Some people have frequent symptoms and attacks, despite using high dose inhaled corticosteroids and long-acting beta2-agonists (LABAs). A diagnosis of ‘severe asthma’ or ‘severe treatment-refractory asthma’ is applied when asthma symptoms and attacks persist despite this treatment or high dose treatment is required to gain control, and other triggers, management skills and comorbidities have been addressed.
Severe Asthma Burden
Approximately 3-10% of people with asthma have severe disease. In Australia, this represents between 52,800 and 176,000 people. Severe asthma is a serious problem that places a heavy burden on individuals and their families. People with severe asthma have frequent symptoms and attacks. In 2011-12, >38,000 hospitalisations were due to asthma with a total of >81,000 days in hospital. Unfortunately, people can also die from their asthma. In Australia, 455 deaths resulted from asthma in 2016.
Severe asthma also has a major psychological and financial burden, with high rates of depression and anxiety and impacts on employment and study. For example, approximately 2/3 of people with severe asthma failed to maintain employment in a UK study. In Australia, 73% of people with severe asthma say they are impaired at work, while 27% have missed work due to their health.
Severe asthma is also a major cost for the health system. Approximately 60% of healthcare costs from asthma are from severe asthma. The direct costs of asthma in Australia are estimated at $1.2 billion, with $28 billion in total costs to the economy.
The Centre of Excellence in Severe Asthma is working hard to improve the lives of people with severe asthma. We are generating new research findings to better understand disease. We are also developing resources to improve disease management.
There are currently limited dedicated resources to inform the management of severe asthma. We have developed the Severe Asthma Toolkit to address this unmet need. The Severe Asthma Toolkit is an evidence-based website that has been developed by clinicians for clinicians. It provides educational content on topics relevant to severe asthma and practical resources and tools to guide optimal asthma management by health care professionals.