A leading asthma charity has made a plea to urgently meet with the health secretary following fears the introduction of new eco-friendly inhalers could impact patient care.
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation chief Martina Chukwuma-Ezike has written to health secretary Humza Yousaf after hitting out at plans for ‘green’ inhalers which she says will put the lives of asthma sufferers at risk.
The charity claim the introduction of the dry powder devices could lead to confusion in the care of patients and has sought a guarantee that no patient will be taken off the typically blue metered-dose versions without a face-to-face consultation with their GP.
However, the Scottish Government have insisted no-one will be asked to switch to medication that is not right for them
In 2020, 113 people died of asthmatic incidents in Scotland. Research by the charity claims 90% of these deaths could have been avoided.
Mrs Chukwuma-Ezike said: “Patients will most likely have no idea about the change in their life-saving medication until they are collecting their prescription.
“Recent research shows that two-thirds of asthmatics are not receiving basic asthma care and this green inhaler policy will only make matters worse.
“The best solution for the environment is getting asthma controlled. It means patients use fewer blue inhalers which will make a bigger impact than simply moving to dry powder inhalers.
“We need to get the basics right. Anything less is an affront to patient care in Scotland.”
The dry powder inhaler uses the patient’s own breath to deliver the medicine.
However, the charity says sufferers overwhelmingly prefer the existing metred-dose device, which delivers air to the patient’s lungs at 70mph.
Mrs Chukwuma-Ezike added: “Getting asthma care right is what we need to do. Putting the patient front and centre will make the biggest difference.
“We deal with real-world experience and we are seeing patients being swapped from inhaler to inhaler without an actual review with their GP. There is lots of confusion and the patient deserves certain guarantees from the Cabinet Secretary, which is what I will be seeking.
“We are not trying to start a fight here. We are a patient-facing organisation and deal with genuine concerns. Patients cannot accept their inhaler getting changed by a letter or a text or by a link to a video showing them how to use it. They need to be seen face-to-face by their GP before any inhalers are changed.
“Health care professionals have guidelines called ‘inhaler competencies’ which states that no patient should be switched until they can demonstrate that they can use their inhaler correctly. We have huge concerns that these guidelines are being completely ignored which is why we are saying to patients do not accept your inhaler being changed without a face-to-face consultation.”
Mrs Chukwuma-Ezike added: “Patient care and safety is being put before a bogus green policy which is fundamentally flawed. What would be best for the planet is better asthma care, less reliever inhaler use, less waste, fewer ambulance journeys and cutting emergency hospital admissions. These are the issues I wish to discuss with the Cabinet Secretary.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Any claim that people with be ‘forced’ to change inhaler or medication is simply wrong. No-one will be asked to switch to medication that is not right for them or have their medication changed without their knowledge.
“Patients will be supported in their continued care of asthma and other breathing conditions. As part of any review into their care, and only where clinically safe to do so, they may be offered to try a more environmentally friendly inhaler, only when agreed with their prescriber.
“The Scottish Government is developing an updated guide to promote high quality prescribing for respiratory conditions which has patient safety at its core.”