Biopharmaceutical group AstraZeneca (AZ) has launched an asthma awareness campaign entitled, “Listen To Your Asthma,” to help educate and raise awareness about severe asthma so that those suffering from severe asthma symptoms can get the right diagnosis and treatment to lead a better quality of life.
The campaign was launched together with Asthma Malaysia and Brand Ambassador, singer, and radio announcer, Dina Nadzir, who shared her personal journey as an asthma patient.
Severe asthma is a chronic, inflammatory condition that affects the airways to the lungs: it is a long-term condition where tiny muscles around the breathing airways tighten and the walls swell up, leading to smaller-sized tubes channelling air into the lungs. This leads to a drop in the amount of oxygen that goes into the body.
Each individual has different causes and triggers for the symptoms of this condition, with the most common being wheezing. However, patients can show other signs, too, including breathlessness, chest tightness, increased phlegm production or coughing – severe asthma does not respond to commonly prescribed medication for regular asthma; it greatly depends on the use of oral corticosteroids and reliever medication to keep it under control.
While the severity of asthma differs from one person to another, severe asthma could be more intense making day-to-day life challenging due to limited social activities. Recently, COVID-19 has elevated concern for those with asthma, as patients with severe asthma have a higher risk of complications from the viral infection.
The AstraZeneca campaign is thus hoped to encourage asthma patients to take the Listen To Your Asthma test, an online questionnaire on Asthma Malaysia’s website to know the likelihood of their current condition. As they answer each question progressively, they will hear the different wheezing sounds based on the answers they provide. This is to give them an understanding of the different severity levels of asthma they may be facing so that they can use the test results to discuss with their doctor and get a proper diagnosis and the right treatment option.
“The goal of this campaign is to help individuals with severe asthma access the right information in order to help them manage their condition better,” said Dr. Helmy Haja Mydin, Consultant Respiratory Physician at Pantai Hospital Kuala Lumpur and Co-founder of Asthma Malaysia.
“Asthma is still misunderstood by many, leading to suboptimal control as a result of incorrect medication, not taking medication regularly, and even incorrect techniques when using inhalers. With these in mind, Asthma Malaysia recently launched its new website containing information on severe asthma. This will be beneficial and useful for those who need to learn more about this disease.”
Many Malaysians are unaware of the various levels of asthma severity and how they affect patients. Severe asthma impairs not only the patient’s breathing but also their quality of life, limiting the patient’s everyday activities and preventing him or her from attaining quality sleep. It can sometimes lead to lung damage, which may be permanent and may require additional treatment. It is the most severe form of asthma and can potentially be fatal. That is why it’s important to get help as soon as possible during a severe asthma attack.
“Appropriate biomarker tests can be used to ascertain the type of asthma an individual has. These biomarkers, taken from blood samples and a breathing test, can help identify specific severe asthma types which will then lead to appropriate treatment and prescription. Ultimately, we aim to individualise asthma treatment to improve patient outcomes,” explained Dr. Helmy Haja Mydin.
While there is no cure for asthma, when a patient has been diagnosed and the type of asthma is identified, proper treatment can be made. Treatments can range from utilising various types of medication, lifestyle changes or both. Globally, in the era of COVID-19, major respiratory societies recommend severe asthma patients continue with the biologics treatment. Biologics assist by blocking the response to airway triggers that cause inflammation.
The efforts from this campaign are in line with Asthma Malaysia’s mission of raising more public education and empowering individuals to take control and better manage their asthma. As part of AstraZeneca’s long-term commitment to empower Malaysians to take better care of their asthma condition and to have an improved quality of life, this campaign will continue to shed more light to Malaysians suffering from this condition.