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Controlling Asthma: Your Child Has to Breathe Every Day

By Dr. Larry Chiaramonte

Maybe it’s a sign of the times. A friend recounts this conversation between her ex-husband and herself about the costs of supporting their college-aged children:

Ex-husband: “We have to cut down on medical expenses. I’m only taking my prostate medication every other day. Why doesn’t Sally do the same thing with her asthma medicine?”

Ex-wife: “Your prostate is no longer my concern, but I want Sally to breathe every day.”

Sadly, this is a dilemma faced by millions of families all over the country. Newly published analysis of data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey showed that the use of controller drugs by asthmatic children increased from 29 percent in 1997-1998 to 58 percent in 2007-2008. That is a good thing, but it is not the whole story. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2007 about 2 in 5 (40%) uninsured people with asthma could not afford their prescription medicines and about 1 in 9 (11%) insured people with asthma could not afford their prescription medicines.

More than half (59%) of children and one-third (33%) of adults who had an asthma attack missed school or work because of asthma in 2008.

The number of people diagnosed with asthma grew by 4.3 million from 2001 to 2009. From 2001 through 2009 asthma rates rose the most among black children, almost a 50% increase. Asthma was linked to 3,447 deaths (about 9 per day) in 2007. Asthma costs in the US grew from about $53 billion in 2002 to about $56 billion in 2007, about a 6% increase.

Those figures, of course, were recorded just when the economic collapse took hold. I will be very curious to see what has happened to these expenditures since then as people have chosen to economize by skimping on their asthma medication. One thing is sure: the asthma hasn’t gone away.

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