Asthma is the most common respiratory condition in the UK, and Asthma + Lung UK states that 5.4 million people receive treatment yearly. Inhalers are a key treatment for respiratory conditions, with approximately 60 million dispensed in England every year. However, inhalers are not always used in an optimal way, which can lead to poor disease control and avoidable deaths. Overprescribing of reliever (most often salbutamol) inhalers and under prescribing of preventer inhalers have been identified as two drivers of poor outcomes.
Inhaler emissions account for approximately 3% of the NHS carbon footprint. The propellant gases used in Metered Dose Inhalers (MDIs) are responsible for most of these emissions. Alternative options with a significantly lower carbon footprint are available and are clinically equivalent for many patients over the age of 12, such as Dry Powder Inhalers (DPIs) and soft mist inhalers (SMI).
There is an opportunity to tackle both challenges, poor outcomes for asthma and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and reducing carbon emissions, simultaneously, and thereby deliver high quality and low carbon respiratory care.
The move also supports improved patient choice. A study from Asthma + Lung UK (ALUK) indicated that most patients would like the environmental impact of inhalers to be a consideration in treatment choice.