Nearly half asthma patients have skipped taking their medication because of cost, a survey by the Asthma Society has found.
Asthma is a lung condition that prevents someone from breathing properly; the condition is more prevalent among disadvantaged sections of society - such as the homeless and Traveller communities - and in the most severe cases can cause death.
Those with a medical card are entitled to free medication but a survey found those who have to pay for it sometimes struggle to do so.
“The findings really were very stark,” Asthma Society CEO Eilis Ní Chaithnía told The Pat Kenny Show.
“96% confirmed they had been prescribed medications but 45% said they had foregone their medication in the last three months due to financial constraints.
“65% said they had difficulties making ends meet and almost 50% said they were having difficulty in paying for their mortgages, their rent, their utilities bills and loan repayments in the last 12 months.
“So, it seems that it’s becoming more and more difficult to afford to have asthma.”
Consultant in Respiratory Medicine Professor Marcus Butler said making the medication free would likely reduce the risk from the disease to sufferers.
“We know from around that people who don’t have their medicines covered by the Government, they have higher rates of flare up and death from asthma,” he said.
“So, we would be pushing to have asthma - and have been for years - to be added to the long-term illness scheme which would allow those people to benefit from [the scheme].”
Most asthma sufferers carry a blue inhaler with them in case they feel short of breath but Professor Butler said that is not enough.
“Data has shown that up to 30% of asthma deaths happen to patients who have infrequent asthma symptoms,” he said.
“That think that perhaps a blue inhaler from time to time is all I need and most of those deaths happen at home before getting to emergency care - so it’s capably of urgently and rapidly worsening - and a blue inhaler is not life saving without the use of a preventer based steroid based inhaler.”
A preventer inhaler reduces the inflammation of the lungs and will lower the risk of an asthma attack over time; a sufferer is usually told to take it twice a day.
Main image: An inhaler.