, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp 205–219

The Cost of Asthma

Can it be Reduced?


  • Craig M. Mellis
    • Allen and Hanbury Epidemiology UnitInstitute of Respiratory Medicine, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital
  • Jennifer K. Peat
    • Allen and Hanbury Epidemiology UnitInstitute of Respiratory Medicine, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital
  • Ann J. Woolcock
    • Department of MedicineUniversity of Sydney
Review Article

DOI: 10.2165/00019053-199303030-00004

Cite this article as:
Mellis, C.M., Peat, J.K. & Woolcock, A.J. Pharmacoeconomics (1993) 3: 205. doi:10.2165/00019053-199303030-00004


Asthma is a major public health problem in developed countries, where it consumes a large and increasing share of scarce health resources. Ideally, medical management should be both optimal in terms of improving the patient’s quality of life, and cost-effective for society. At present, there is very little information relating to costs and economic efficiency of current asthma management. Although the true total cost of asthma is unknown, current estimates suggest it is high. The main value of recent total cost estimates is that they identify the most expensive areas of asthma costs, and ideally, formal cost-effectiveness analyses should be concentrated on these areas.

Asthma is still under- or inappropriately diagnosed, and undertreated. Several national and international consensus plans for the optimal management of asthma in children and adults have been published. If these inadequacies in asthma management were corrected. using current treatment recommendations, the overall cost of asthma from both the community and patient perspective should fall. The situation requires increased use of preventative medications [sodium cromoglycate (cromolyn sodium) or inhaled corticosteroids], more widespread use of written crisis plans, more proactive medical consultations (rather than reactive or urgent consultations), further expansion of asthma education programmes, and further education of medical practitioners about the optimum management of both long term asthma and the acute exacerbation of asthma in the patient’s home, the doctor’s office, the hospital emergency room and the hospital inpatient setting. The increased costs associated with these measures would be more than offset by reduced expenditure on bronchodilator drugs, less widespread use of nebulisers at home and in hospitals, reduced antibiotic usage, reduced need for expensive emergency medical care and particularly reduced utilisation of hospital resources. To ensure that resources are being directed into the most cost-effective areas of asthma care, clinical trials of asthma should include utilisation of healthcare resources as an outcome measure, and estimates of the costs of the treatment under study. In addition, since the intangible cost (quality of life) is one of the most important effects of treatment from the patient’s perspective, this should be more widely used as an outcomce measure in clinical trials.

Ultimately, prevention of asthma is the long term goal. If the hypothesis that sensitisation to house dust mite in early infancy is a major contributor to the subsequent development of asthma, then prevention may require drastic and expensive changes to current housing.

Copyright information

© Adis International Limited 1993