Topic: Health

World Asthma Day - Medical expert urges prevention as opposed to treatment

By Leah Te Whata

With this being asthma awareness week, some asthmatics are calling on New Zealand to follow Australia's example and provide access to asthma inhalers without a prescription. But Health Minister Jonathan Coleman and Health Professor Jim Reid disagree.

With asthma medication only available through prescription here in New Zealand, some patients suggest we follow Australia's example.

Asthmatic Aroha Mane says, “We should consider following Australia's example. People there have ready access to asthma inhalers without a prescription. This could be an effective way of easing access to asthma medication for families.”

According to an Otago University study, asthma affects one in five Māori and Pacific children. Health Professor Jim Reid says he disagrees with any suggestion to sell asthma medication over the counter.

Otago University Professor Jim Reid, Professor says, "We need to hammer home the need to use a preventer because the preventer stops the symptoms it treats the symptoms at the cause. The reliever is like the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff and its treating symptoms when they have arrived and it's the wrong way round. I would predict that if we let that happen our death rate would increase even more."

Minister of Health Jonathan Coleman says asthmatics should focus on prevention rather than treatment.

Minister of Health Jonathan Coleman says, "Yeah well I mean asthma, it's very important that it is managed appropriately and so part of a good preventative strategy would be making sure that people get access to those resources."

Mane says, “I think there should be education programmes teaching people how to use an asthma pump correctly. The New Zealand Asthma Society has information available showing people how to use an asthma pump properly. I think those are awesome.”

The government has previously looked at selling asthma pumps over the counter but whether they'll consider it again remains to be seen.