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Majority of patients unable to use their inhalers

By Nigel Praities

Most asthma patients are not using inhalers correctly, even after receiving dedicated training and education from practice nurses, say researchers.

Inhaler technique was reviewed in over 2,100 patients with symptomatic asthma from 100 practices and researchers found 86% were not able to use their metered dose inhaler properly.

Following a further two clinical reviews – where appropriate education and training on inhaler technique was provided – 76% of patients were still unable to use their inhalers properly.

Ms Alison Harwell, lead author and an asthma specialist nurse at the consultancy firm National Services for Health Improvement, said the study showed the importance of getting inhaler technique right first time.

‘It is important that patients prescribed an inhaler device must have received training in the use of the device and have demonstrated their ability to use the device correctly,' she said.

Dr Iain Small, chair of the General Practice Airways Group and a GP in Peterhead, Aberdeenshire, said the advice demonstrated GPs should go against NICE guidance and give the appropriate inhaler first, regardless of cost.

‘The obvious conclusion is that if you find a patient has got poor MDI technique then don't just think about teaching them how to use the MDI, take them off it.

‘This flies in the face of NICE technology guidelines, but give the patient the device they can use best and prefer. That is what they are more likely to use,' he said.

The study was presented at the International Primary Care Respiratory Group meeting in Stansted, Essex, earlier this month.

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