Respiratory experts in Europe have called for clinical and regulatory changes to be made regarding the management of asthma, to reflect the latest scientific understanding of the disease and the needs of patients.
The call forms part of the "Brussels Declaration", which was drawn up by leading asthma experts, European Union (EU) policy makers and patients groups attending the Summit for Change in Asthma Management at the EU Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, earlier this month.
Currently, guidelines regarding the management of asthma are based on a historical view of the disease that mostly relates to airflow in the lungs. However, delegates at the summit heard that this takes little account of the inflammatory nature of the disease and whether other parts of the body, besides the lungs, are affected by the same type of inflammation.
In addition, research shows that many patients respond to asthma medications in different ways and, therefore, treatments should be tailored to the individual to maximise the chances of treatment success.
However, current methods of assessing medications that treat the wider aspects of inflammation are not reflected in asthma management guidelines, which limit the choice of treatments available for doctors to choose from, the meeting heard.
Delegates were also told that the economic and social costs of asthma are mainly caused by poorly controlled disease, and therefore improved management of the respiratory condition would substantially reduce associated costs.
Co-chair of the summit, Professor Stephen Holgate, from the University of Southampton in the UK, said: "This meeting has been extremely valuable as it has allowed health care professionals, scientists and patient groups to work directly with regulators and policymakers to establish where and how improvements need to be made in order for asthma patients to receive optimum treatment."
However, he added: "Our work does not end here; it is vital that all of the actions agreed upon are also acted upon to ensure asthma patients benefit fully."