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Recent news on unsafe prescriptions for treatment of Asthma

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It was widely reported within the past few days that there has been some major errors in the treatment of asthmatic conditions throughout the uk:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-33132613

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/science-news/11675702/22000-asthma-sufferers-prescribed-potentially-deadly-medication.html

Tens of thousands of people who suffer with Asthma throughout the UK are not getting the correct medicines to keep their condition safely under control. In some cases, patients were put on the wrong type of inhaler. Studies have shown that no asthma patient should be prescribed a long-acting reliever inhaler without being given a preventer inhaler in addition.

Currently, there are about 5.4 million people in the UK on asthma treatment and a million of these are children.

What is Asthma?

  • Common long term condition that can cause coughing, wheezing, chest tightness and breathlessness.
  • Brought about by the inflammation of the small tubes, called the bronchi, that are employed to carry air both in and out of the lungs.
  • During an asthma attack, the bronchi become inflamed and more sensitive than normal. Once triggered, the airways constrict and become narrow and the circular muscles tighten which in turn increases the production of mucus.
  • Common triggers – House dust mite, animal fur, pollen, cigarette smoke, exercise and some viral respiratory infections. It can also be triggered by different types of substances such as allergens or chemicals sometimes inhaled at work.
  • It is more common in men than women. There can be permanent damage and this is usually the case if asthma develops while in adulthood. In children, the condition may disappear or it can improve during teenage years; however, it can also return later in life depending on the severity.

For further information see: http://www.asthma.org.uk

Treatment

  • There is no cure currently.
  • Aim of treatment is to relieve the symptoms and try to prevent future symptoms and attacks.
  • Medication – usually by way of inhalers. Short acting relief include salbutamol and terbutaline. Long acting relief is provided by salmeterol, formeterol and titropium bromide but should only be used in addition to a preventer inhaler. Relief inhalers are usually blue or green in colour while preventer inhalers are brown.
  • How inhalers work – short or long relief inhalers are designed to deliver medication directly into the lungs as one breathes and eases the symptoms by relaxing the muscles around the airways and allowing the passages to remain open. Preventive inhalers usually contain a low dose of steroid medication to prevent and reduce airway swelling and inflammation.

Issues

In an audit carried out of more than 500 GP practices between 2010 and 2013, 5,000 patients had each been prescribed 12 reliever inhalers over a 12 month period with 1,965 of those patients never being reviewed by a Nurse of Doctor.

The same audit revealed that 400 patients had been prescribed long acting relief medicines without a preventer inhaler. When applying the figures on a national scale, the figures reach around 22,000 cases.

These findings are supported by a report published a year ago – “National Review of Asthma Deaths”.

The UK has one of the highest rates of asthma prevalence, hospital admissions and mortality in the developed world.  Dr Mark Levy, GP, and author of the report has said that deaths could be prevented by better disease management and that patients should be reviewed and assessed every time they suffer an asthma attack.

Potential medical negligence claims

If you, or your child, suffer from asthma or an asthma related condition and feel that you have not been prescribed the appropriate treatment by your GP or hospital then you may be able to bring a claim as a result of negligent medical treatment. If you would like to speak with a member of the Lester Morrill clinical negligence team, please call on 0113 245 8549 or contact us by email at help@lmlaw.co.uk .

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