Doctors Overprescribe Inhalers For Acute Asthma by 60%
Pharmacists prompting physicians not to write prescriptions for excessive
quantities of inhalers used to treat acute asthma attacks can help reduce over
prescription of the inhalers without compromising patient safety while saving
money, according to a Medco study released last week. at the annual meeting of
the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. The study shows that
when physicians receive educational materials and follow-up communications
outreach, and have to give a response before the pharmacist can dispense a
prescription, the number of new prescriptions for excessive quantities of rescue
inhalers defined as more than one inhaler per month decreased by 60%.
The Medco study, conducted between July 2007 and June 2008 on 250,000
patients, found that as a result of the intervention, 200,000 fewer inhalers were
used, saving $4.2 million. The researchers also looked at pharmacy and medical
claims for a 1,835-patient subset of the study population. During the 12 months
following the intervention, 67% of the patients no longer were prescribed
excessive quantities of rescue inhalers, while the number of hospitalizations and
emergency room visits stayed the same.
Rescue inhalers, also known as short-acting beta2 agonists, are meant for
patients experiencing acute asthma attacks, though many physicians will
prescribe them for daily, long-term use. While wasting medicine, this also can
have dangerous implications for patient health by masking exacerbations of the
disease and causing more serious problems down the road. “Excessive use of
rescue inhalers wastes medicine, but even more importantly, it can be masking an
asthma exacerbation,” study researcher Luis Salmun stated. “Rather than over-
relying on rescue inhalers, patients should speak to their physicians to make sure
that they’re using their daily asthma medications properly or to determine if an
adjustment in those medications is needed.”
NCPIE encourages healthcare professionals and community groups to foster patient–professional communication about medicines. However, NCPIE does not supervise or endorse the activities of any group or professional. Discussion and action concerning medicines are solely the responsibility of the patient and their healthcare professionals, and not NCPIE.
Please consult a licensed health care professional with questions or concerns about your medication and/or condition.