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WASHINGTON, May 3, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Today on World Asthma Day 2011, despite decades of progress on the management and control of asthma – more research, better understanding and powerful treatments – millions of people with severe asthma are still living with serious, frequent, life-threatening symptoms. A national project conducted by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) among severe asthma patients, including focus group and survey research, found that severe asthmatics are still facing serious problems. 

Severe Asthma Profoundly Affects Quality of Life

Over three quarters (77%) of severe asthma patients identified in the AAFA survey report they have been in the emergency department (ED) at least once due to asthma, over a third (38%) have made at least 5 ED visits, and 14% have been 20 times or more.

But trips to the emergency room are not the only problems for these patients. Over a third (35%) of severe asthma respondents said that asthma “tremendously hinders” their daily activities and prevents them from doing the things they would like to do (39%). As a result, more than two-thirds(69%) say their quality of life is “worse than normal.” More information about the study is at www.aafa.org/SevereAsthma.

“There is still no cure for asthma,” says Tom Flanagan, Chair of AAFA’s national Board of Directors. “I think some people forget that asthma still kills over 4,000 people each year,” says Flanagan, “and it’s a reminder that more work needs to be done.”

Progress Beyond the Medicine Cabinet

Despite real advances over the past few decades in medicines, many patients with severe asthma still can’t get their disease under control. Only half of severe asthma respondents in the AAFA survey feel that their current asthma medications are effective (57%). Almost two-thirds of respondents (63%) say they dislike the cost and 41% say they dislike the side-effects. In fact, over half (53%) of severe asthma respondents say they would like to find “a drug-free option” for their asthma.

Last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first device used in a non-drug procedure for adults with severe persistent asthma that is not well controlled with standard medications. The procedure, called bronchial thermoplasty or “BT” is an out-patient procedure done by pulmonologists using thermal energy to reduce excessive smooth muscle in the lungs, decreasing the ability of the airways to constrict and reducing the frequency of asthma attacks. “This procedure has shown long-lasting benefits for a subset of severe asthma patients,” says Mike Tringale, Vice President at AAFA, “and it’s a great new innovation to highlight on World Asthma Day this year.”

About Severe Asthma

It is estimated that more than 20 million people in the U.S. are living with asthma, one of the most common chronic diseases among children and adults.

While most asthma can be controlled with medication, an estimated 5-10% of the asthma population is considered to have the most severe form of the disease that doesn't respond well to treatment. People who have severe asthma are likely to have more attacks and are more at risk of a fatal attack.

During an asthma attack, the airways in the lung narrow due to smooth muscle constriction and inflammation, causing air passages to close. A person having an attack may experience chest tightness, coughing, shortness of breath wheezing and great difficulty breathing.

Allergies and infections cause inflammation of the airways, and asthma attacks are more likely to occur during cold, flu or allergy seasons. Most current treatments and procedures aim to reduce the frequency and severity of asthma attacks and target the muscles in the airways helping them to remain open. Although asthma mortality rates are low, attacks can cause suffocation and death. There are over 4,000 asthma deaths in the U.S. each year.

About the Survey

AAFA opened an online “Severe Asthma” survey to the public, which included 19 closed-ended multiple choice questions, and 6 open-ended questions. Invitations to complete the survey were sent to 9607 contacts selected from AAFA’s constituent e-mail database. In addition, AAFA posted links to the survey on AAFA’s Web site, several allergy blogs and AAFA’s social networking pages. The survey yielded 756 completed responses (7.9% return rate).

About AAFA

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), a not-for-profit organization founded in 1953, is the leading patient organization for people with asthma and allergies, and the oldest asthma and allergy patient group in the world. AAFA provides practical information, community based services and support through a national network of chapters and support groups. AAFA develops health education, organizes state and national advocacy efforts and funds research to find better treatments and cures.

CONTACT: Angel Waldron, Senior Communications Manager, 202-466-7643 x248, angel@aafa.org


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