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New Survey Finds Troubling Data on American Asthma Sufferers

Disconnect Between Patient Perception and Symptom Severity; New Resources for Patients, Parents

WASHINGTON, May 15, 2007 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A new survey released today by the National Consumers League shows that American asthma sufferers are not exactly breathing easy these days. Four in ten asthma sufferers understand asthma medication categories somewhat or not at all, and the more recent the diagnosis, the less knowledgeable adult patients tend to be about asthma. In addition, 62 percent of adults with severe asthma report being in fair or poor health, and one quarter of all asthma sufferers report their condition limits their ability to participate in sports.

Asthma, which affects an estimated 20 million Americans, is a condition of the lungs that, for different individual patients, ranges from minor inconvenience to serious health threats. As nearly 6 million asthma sufferers are under age 18, it is the most common chronic childhood disease. NCL commissioned Harris Interactive to probe into the asthma sufferer experience, researching depth of knowledge, effects of symptoms, and degree to which treatment is being pursued. The results are nothing short of troubling.

The survey of 1,105 adults, made up of both asthma patients and parents of child sufferers, reveals that many asthma sufferers are experiencing troubling asthma. It sheds light on a disconnect between how patients rate their asthma condition and the severity of specific symptoms, and reveals differences in symptoms, treatment and information-seeking among various demographic populations. More in-depth analysis of the following highlights is available at NCL's Web site, where the nonprofit organization has also posted materials for consumers in its new "Live Well with Asthma" section. (

"Asthma is a highly personal, challenging con dition that non-sufferers may not even be able to fathom. It's an overwhelming, isolating disease that requires heavy patient involvement and medication management," said NCL President Linda Golodner. "It is our hope that our new consumer materials will help asthma sufferers live well with their asthma."

    Major Findings

    Asthmatics: A Vulnerable Population

    -- Exposure to triggers. About a third of adult (29 percent) and parents

       of child sufferers (35 percent) report living in a household with at

       least one smoker.

    -- Lack of guidance. Nearly two-in-ten (17 percent) parents of child

       sufferers and one-in-ten (10 percent) adult sufferers who have a

       medical professional currently managing their asthma, do not have an

       asthma treatment plan.

       * More than two-in-ten adult sufferers (22 percent) have not received

         any information at all about lifestyle changes they can make to

         improve their asthma condition.

    -- General Health. 62 percent of adults with severe asthma report being in

       fair or poor health.

Severity of Symptoms: Perceptions vs. Reality

There seems to be a disconnect between how adult or parents of child asthma sufferers describe the severity of their or their child's asthma and the frequency or severity of symptoms asked of respondents:

    -- While 88 percent of adult asthma sufferers indicate their asthma is

       moderate or mild, at least one-quarter of adult sufferers report

       experiencing shortness of breath (29 percent), coughing (28 percent),

       and difficulty falling or staying asleep (28 percent) on a weekly

       basis. Additionally, 31 percent of adults report having a flare up

       within the last week.

    -- Similarly, 90 percent of parents report their child's asthma as mild or

       moderate, but nearly 20 percent report their child has very severe or

       extremely severe coughing (20
 percent), difficulty breathing (19

       percent), wheezing (18 percent), tightness in chest (18 percent) and

       difficulty falling or staying asleep (19 percent).

    -- The perceived mild symptoms may translate into underdosing: of those

       taking less than the prescribed dose of their fast-acting inhalers

       during a flare up, more than six-in-ten parents of child (67 percent)

       and adult sufferers (61 percent) do so because they do not feel their

       flare up is severe enough.

    Medication Use

    -- Overdosing. Of those asthma sufferers who report taking more of their

       fast acting inhaler than prescribed, more than half (51 percent) do so

       because the prescribed dose took too long.

    -- Switching medications. Nearly half of asthma sufferers (43 percent)

       have switched controller medications. Almost a quarter (23 percent)

       switched because they heard about a better controller medication.

Asthma's Impact on Lifestyle

According to adult asthmatics and parents of child sufferers, asthma is a condition that limits activities and affects job and school performance.

    -- One-quarter (26 percent) of all asthma sufferers report asthma limits

       their ability to participate in sports.

    -- About one-in-ten of all asthma sufferers report that their asthma

       impacts certain aspects of their work and school performance

Parents: A Protective Group

Comparing the experiences of adult sufferers with parents of child sufferers reveals a greater level of involvement, concern and anxiety on the part of parents, who may feel they are advocates for their child's health.

    -- Parents of child sufferers (34 percent) are more likely to contact

       their physician than adults (11 percent) when they have questions

       between doctor visits.

    -- Parents describe their child as having mild (46 percent) or moderate

       asthma (44 per
cent), which is very much under control or completely

       under control (75 percent). However, nearly 20 percent experience some

       very severe symptoms, and 35 percent report their child experiences

       asthma-related symptoms year-round.

    -- Parents are more likely to seek all types of information about asthma

       than adult sufferers, and parents of child sufferers are more likely to

       make lifestyle changes because of their asthma than are adult


    -- 63 percent of parents say they understand their children's condition

       very or extremely well (compared with 57 percent of adults), but only

       17 percent report that their child currently uses a Peak Flow meter.

Minority Populations: Black and Hispanic Experiences

Hispanic and Black asthma sufferers tend to have more severe and frequent symptoms and a generally negative attitude toward their asthma condition than other asthma sufferers; however, they are also more avid seekers of information to help them better manage their asthma.

    -- Overdosing. While eight-in-ten (81 percent) asthma sufferers take the

       indicated dose of their fast-acting inhaler medication, Hispanic and

       Black adults (23 percent each) and adult sufferers with severe asthma

       (40 percent) tend to take more than indicated.

    -- Frequency of symptoms. Hispanic (13 percent, 11 percent) and Black (21

       percent, 8 percent) adults and parents of child sufferers are more

       likely to report experiencing asthma-related symptoms, such as

       wheezing, on a weekly basis (4-7 days a week) compared to other (5

       percent, 1 percent) adults and parents of child sufferers.

    -- Severity of symptoms. Hispanic (19 percent, 12 percent) and Black (23

       percent, 11 percent) adults and parents of child sufferers tend to have

       more severe asthma-related symptoms than other (8 percent, 9 percent)

       adults and 
parents of child sufferers.

    -- Emotional anxiety. Hispanic (19 percent, 16 percent) and Black (23

       percent, 16 percent) adults and parents of child sufferers are more

       likely to report experiencing a great deal of emotional upset or

       anxiety during an asthma flare-up compared to other adults and parents

       of child sufferers (6 percent, 8 percent).

For more detailed survey findings, as well as NCL's new educational materials for asthma patients and parents, visit NCL also offers Spanish-language materials at NCL thanks Schering-Plough for its support, which made this survey and educational effort possible.

About NCL

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America's pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit

About the survey

This survey, conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of the National Consumers League, was issued online and via telephone within the United States, September 7 through November 3, 2006, among 1,105 adults (aged 18 and over) that are asthma sufferers or parents of children with asthma. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.

With a pure probability sample of 1,105, one could say with a 95 percent probability that the overall results would have a sampling error of +/- 2.97 percentage points. Sampling error for data based on sub-samples would be higher and would vary. However, that does not take other sources of error into account. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

CONTACT: Heather Horiuchi of National Consumers League, +1-202-835-3323,ext 116,

Web site:

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