Pune: In a recent study conducted by CIPLA, it was found that 47 per cent patients fear the social stigma related to asthma more than the disease itself in southern and western India.
City-based doctors also share this view that though cases of asthma are growing, there is a lot of fear and stigma in the minds of patients.
Asthma is a chronic disease usually characterised by airway inflammation and narrowing of the airways, which can vary over time. It is estimated that in Pune, local doctors on a daily basis see an average of around 40 patients suffering from asthma/respiratory diseases.
On an average until 2018, while Pune has seen a five per cent increase in the number of people suffering from asthma as compared to last year, approximately, one third of Puneites will develop asthma at some time, mostly before the age of 20, said doctors. Meanwhile, while the number of patients using inhalation therapy has increased in the last few years, an estimated 50 per cent of asthmatics discontinue inhaler use largely during their teenage years.
The study was conducted on 1,000 patients and 700 general population. The study also revealed that 29 per cent patients fear addiction by using inhalers. 27 per cent patients believe oral therapies, tablets/syrups are equally effective according to the study. However, doctors feel that these misconceptions and stigma should be removed from the public perception.
Dr Nitin Abhyankar, chest physician from Poona Hospital said that it is very significant to change the perception towards asthma and inhalation therapy.
“While inhalation treatment can play a crucial role in reducing the impact of asthma on people’s lives, compliance is crucial. Inhaled medicines help to deliver the drugs directly to the lungs. But we need patients to adopt the treatment as they are prescribed to get the full benefit. Inhalation therapy works to control asthma by preventing and relieving symptoms and reducing flare ups, but they will work if patients work in partnership with their general physicians and take them in the way they are prescribed. Expanding one’s knowledge on this conditions is vital as patients in Pune stop using inhalation therapy mid-way which makes it difficult to control the disease,” said Abhyankar.
Echoing similar sentiments, Dr Sanjay Lalwani, Indian Academy of Paediatrics (IAP) President said that it remains a fact that the number of people affected by asthma in Pune has gone up and a lot more needs to be done in terms of education, prevention, management and treatment of patients.
“It therefore becomes imperative to tackle the problem as early as possible and spread awareness on the correct and most effective way to handle it. It is broadly accepted that little or no adherence to the right treatment is a widespread issue amongst children in Pune that is associated with poor health outcomes, resulting in unscheduled doctor visits and hospitalisation. Inhalers are the best form of treatment as they deliver the medication directly to the lungs thereby requiring 20 times lesser dosage as compared to oral medication.
They hence have the least amount of side effects,” said Lalwani.