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GPs are relying too heavily on reliever medication for high-risk asthma patients and

under-prescribing inhaled ster-oids, a study concludes.

Researchers found patients with heavy use of bronchodilators and low use of inhaled steroids were at significant risk of asthma attacks.

They warned a high ratio of bronchodilators to inhaled steroids indicated 'low-quality asthma prescribing' and urged GPs to audit their records to identify patients at risk.

The study concluded: 'GPs and/or patients tended to control worsening episodes by prescribing more bronchodilators rather than prophylactic anti-inflammatory inhalers, which are recommended.'

Study author Professor Henry Chrystyn, professor of clinical pharmacology at the University of Bradford, said: 'GPs should make sure that those who are using a lot of relievers have their inhaled ster-oid doses optimised.'

The study, in June's Respiratory Medicine, analysed GP notes in 115 patients who had been admitted to hospital in the previous five years.

Patients heavily prescribed bronchodilators with low use of inhaled steroids used more oral prednisolone rescue courses ­ a proxy for asthma attacks ­ and made frequent visits to their GP.

Dr Chris Woodforde, a GP fellow in respiratory health at Halton PCT in Cheshire, said said: 'Follow-up is important ­ that's where we're not always succeeding. But when patients feel better they stop taking medication.'

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