Healthcare professionals as bad as patients at good respiratory inhaler technique

October 3, 2012

Healthcare professionals are as bad as patients when it comes to knowing how to use inhalers prescribed for asthma and other respiratory conditions correctly, says an editorial in Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin (DTB).

They therefore can't be relied on to teach patients how to use these devices correctly, says DTB.

But as 45 million for respiratory inhalers were dispensed in 2011 in England alone—at a cost of £900 million to the NHS—everyone needs to be more clued up on correct inhaler technique to make sure these drugs work well for patients and offer the best value for money for the NHS, it says.

Four of the top 10 most expensive NHS drugs last year were reliever or preventer inhalers for and other .

But even when the correct technique is applied, only around a third of the drug reaches the lungs, so when these inhalers are being used incorrectly, there's a good chance that the patient will get none at all, says DTB.

"Numerous studies over the past 30 years have shown that many patients cannot use inhalers correctly and over 50% of [them] struggle to use a metered dose properly," says DTB.

"Of perhaps more concern is the fact that many also do not know how to use inhalers correctly and are therefore not in a position to coach patients effectively," it continues.

Little attention is paid to teaching, checking and rechecking inhaler technique, says DTB. And this applies to everyone involved—from those who prescribe, to those who review patients, to those involved in the dispensing and supply.

The editorial cites National Institute for Health and (NICE) guidance, which emphasises how neglected inhaler technique is, and recommends that it should be regularly reassessed and re-taught, because it is so important.

Spending a bit more time on this can reap dividends for both patients and the NHS, says DTB, which describes several small scale initiatives, aimed at boosting inhaler technique. These have not only helped curb the impact of respiratory disease, but have also cut the amount of medicine used, and even the number of visits made to see a GP, DTB points out.

There are also several system prompts which doctors, nurses, and community pharmacists could use to review a patient's inhaler technique, it says.

"However, there is a persuasive argument that such services should only be delivered by those who are able to demonstrate and teach the correct inhaler technique," concludes DTB.

"Only when are competent and confident to use inhalers can we be sure that patients and the NHS will be getting best value for money," it says.

Explore further: Asthma pill more user friendly than inhalers -- and no less effective

Related Stories

FDA phases out inhaler due to environmental impact

September 22, 2011

(AP) -- Asthma patients who rely on over-the-counter inhalers will need to switch to prescription-only alternatives as part of the federal government's latest attempt to protect the Earth's atmosphere.

Recommended for you

Zika in fetal brain tissue responds to a popular antibiotic

November 30, 2016

Working in the lab, UC San Francisco researchers have identified fetal brain tissue cells that are targeted by the Zika virus and determined that azithromycin, a common antibiotic regarded as safe for use during pregnancy, ...

Zika and glaucoma linked for first time in new study

November 30, 2016

A team of researchers in Brazil and at the Yale School of Public Health has published the first report demonstrating that the Zika virus can cause glaucoma in infants who were exposed to the virus during gestation.

Flu forecasts successful on neighborhood level

November 30, 2016

Scientists at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health developed a computer model to predict the onset, duration, and magnitude of influenza outbreaks for New York City boroughs and neighborhoods. They found ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.