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Do All Asthma Patients Need Inhalers?

October 1, 2012, 6:08 PM by Casey Wonnenberg

Do All Asthma Patients Need Inhalers?

Some steroid inhalers for asthma are quite expensive, and now a new study questions if all asthma patients need to use inhalers on a regular basis.

People with mild asthma have been using steroid inhalers to prevent attacks for decades, but the study finds those who take the inhaler on a regular basis don't do any better than those who use the steroid only when they have symptoms.

Belinda Twite is not a stranger to the doctor's office.

"I've done a couple times in the ICU, and I've done quite a few stays in the hospital," Twite said.

The Beresford woman has suffered from severe asthma her entire life and has relied on medication, including a combination of steroid inhalers.

"The medications are very expensive, but I look at the pros and cons. The medication cost quite a bit, but my hospital stays aren't cheap either," Twite said.

But do all patients, even if they have mild symptoms, need to take a steroid inhaler to prevent attacks? That's what a new study is questioning.

Avera Dr. Anthony Hericks says the study brings up an interesting question but the main thing is that people have their asthma under control.

"Asthma control is sometimes very hard, so to take medication, especially when they're expensive, routinely throughout the day when you don't really feel the underlying benefit of them really makes asthma a hard disease to treat," Hericks said.

Hericks says he also wants to emphasize that the study looked at patients with mild or moderate asthma and not severe asthma, which can be deadly.

"Anytime you take one study, what you may see is that patients take that study for what it says without reading the fine print," Hericks said.

That's why Hericks encourages people like Twite to continue taking their inhalers on a regular basis.

"I have to take my medication. I can't see going without it because when I have gone without it, I've gotten sick and ended up in the hospital," Twite said.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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