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A need for better asthma treatment

ASTHMA is a chronic lung disease caused by airway inflammation and results in airway constriction in response to certain stimuli.

It is characterised by a variety of symptoms including wheezing, coughing and a shortness of breath. An acute attack of asthma can be life-threatening. The prevalence of asthma is increasing by approximately 50 per cent every decade and worldwide deaths from asthma total more than 180,000 annually.

"World Asthma Day is celebrated each year on the first Tuesday of May to raise awareness about asthma. This is an important effort considering the increasing number of asthma patients throughout the world including Malaysia," explains Professor Liam Chong Kin, president of the Malaysian Thoracic Society.

The theme of World Asthma Day 2005 is "The Unmet Needs of Asthma" and in a shared commitment to improve asthma management, ALTANA Pharma announced recently its partnership with the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) on a new online awareness initiative in support of World Asthma Day. This initiative represents an interesting and interactive way to capture the world's attention and focus it on the global issue of asthma.

GINA is giving people the opportunity to win prizes simply by taking part in a self-assessment quiz. From now till the end of May people who visit and answer three questions about asthma will be eligible to win. Their chances of winning increase with the number of people to whom they pass the website information to.

The GINA executive committee has chosen this theme to call the attention of doctors and patients alike to the need for better asthma treatment and control. In particular, GINA will focus on four components of unmet needs: diagnosis, treatment, education arid environmental health. GINA specifically cites the under use of inhaled corticosteroids for long-term management of asthma as a particular problem.

"With approximately 300 million people suffering from asthma globally and another 100 million expected by 2025, it is a worldwide concern that can lead to severe implications. This includes increasing mortality rates and economic costs. Asthma is recognised as one of the more chronic diseases yet there is a lack of understanding and knowledge that would help patients in the long run," said Chin Sook Wei, country manager of ALTANA Pharma.

She says: "This collaboration with GINA is in line with ALTANA's mission to educate and create awareness of the prevalence of asthma amongst Malaysians, in conjunction with World Asthma Day. So we urge people to visit to learn a little bit more about asthma, its symptoms and treatment options. We believe that by using such a platform, we would be able to spread the message across in a more relevant and effective manner."

Liam agrees. "Patients with asthma often underestimate the severity of their illness and often curtail their lifestyle to stop asthma symptoms from recurring. However, there are ways to effectively manage asthma so that patients can lead a normal life without having to restrain themselves from certain types of food or activities.

"It is important for patients to consult their doctor to assess the severity of their illness and to obtain proper treatment. In addition, patients should also access further information about asthma through reliable sources such as the GINA website to properly equip themselves in managing and understanding their illness. The upcoming campaign is an innovative way to educate the public about asthma whilst also providing an incentive for them to be proactive about their health," Liam concludes.


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