Dubbed ‘Yes2Breathe’, the campaign aims to help people with asthma reduce their risk of asthma attacks. It highlights that just three or more puffs of the blue inhaler per week increases a patient’s risk of asthma attacks and invites consumers to take a free online test to rate their reliance.
Essentially a public service announcement, the campaign includes PR, social media and advertising to drive the potentially life-saving message to South Africans. Attention grabbing images that were created for the campaign are being used to earn the attention of asthmatics.
The campaign’s hero images feature people with a blue asthma mouthpiece in place of their mouth.
The campaign message unpacks that for decades, treatment of asthma has involved two different types of inhalers.
One of the campaign’s key opinion leaders — Johannesburg-based GP Doctor Marlin McKay — says,” Many asthmatic patients use a maintenance inhaler, which contains an anti-inflammatory medicine. They also use a symptom reliever inhaler, which is blue in colour and contains an item that opens up the airways also known as short-acting beta2 agonists (SA(BA)).”
“Asthma patients frequently underuse anti-inflammatory maintenance therapy and instead over-rely on SA(BA) reliever therapy, which provides rapid and temporary relief. The problem with this approach is it can mask the worsening of symptoms and actually increases the risk of asthma attacks,” adds McKay.
The link between SA(BA) blue reliever inhalers’ over-reliance and an increased risk of asthma attacks has led to updated recommendations from GINA. These recommendations are provided for people using these specific inhalers and advising them to avoid establishing a pattern of reliance on SA(BA) early in the disease.
GINA says that it no longer recommends SA(BA) blue reliever inhalers alone as the preferred reliever therapy; it instead recommends the use of a low dose inhaled corticosteroid (ICS)-formoterol therapy as needed as the preferred reliever therapy across all asthma severities.
To help asthma patients assess their levels of over-reliance, the campaign offers a first-of-its-kind digital assessment tool, known as the Reliever Reliance Test. This evidence-based questionnaire will empower patients to assess their over-reliance on their blue reliever inhaler, SA(BA)9, by answering five short questions.
McKay says, “Many patients feel dependant on their SA(BA) blue inhaler, mistakenly believing this to be the best way to control their symptoms. Having said that, it’s important to understand firstly what over-reliance looks like, and this is where the test comes in.”
“I strongly urge that everyone living with asthma should take the test. It’s easy to navigate and will help them understand whether they are relying too heavily on their SA(BA). If the results indicate over-reliance, then that information can facilitate conversations with their health care professional around their asthma management,” adds McKay.
“Recognising that the use of SA(BA) blue inhalers to control asthma symptoms actually increases the risk of asthma attacks. Action to correct asthmatic compliance has never been more important,” McKay says.
“When you consider that South Africa’s prevalence of asthma is among the highest in the world and we are ranked fifth for asthma mortality, the case for better control is clear. Educational campaigns such as this carry weight,” says McKay.
“Given the recent updates to global asthma management recommendations backed by leading expert opinion, AstraZeneca developed the campaign to inform and educate patients, health professionals and policymakers,” adds Mashilane.
“It centres around the potential dangers of SA(BA) over-reliance and the urgent need to address this issue. As an established leader in respiratory care, we are committed to working with the respiratory community to provide tools that will help improve asthma control and aim to eliminate preventable asthma attacks for the millions of asthma patients in South Africa,” concludes Mashilane.
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