19 January 2017

Asthma: a needless killer of our time

SPONSORED: Many people have asthma without knowing it. If you regularly wheeze and feel breathless, you could be one of them. Here’s why it’s important to find out.


More than 300 million people worldwide are thought to be affected by asthma. Another alarming statistic from the Global Initiative for Asthma Report is that worldwide asthma causes 346 000 deaths per year.

And when it comes to reported asthma deaths, South Africa is number four in the world. Between six and 10 percent of adult South Africans have asthma, according to the South African Medical Journal (SAMJ).

This condition, especially when it is undiagnosed and untreated, which is often the case in our country, can be deadly.

The 2014 Global Asthma Report says that in SA almost 300 people per million will die from asthma symptoms annually.

So why do so many South Africans die from asthma, when medication is available at state facilities for the treatment and management of this chronic disease?

Many people simply don’t recognise the symptoms, have never been diagnosed, or do not use medication as prescribed. According to the SAMJ, by the time they get to hospital, patients’ symptoms are acute and sometimes difficult to treat.

But the blame cannot be placed on patients alone -- our health system is overwhelmed by HIV-related lung diseases such as pneumonia and tuberculosis, and asthma is often underappreciated, according to the SAMJ. They go on to say that many patients also do not use their medication correctly.

This is why awareness campaigns about asthma in South Africa are so crucial. In February, the WHO’s attention will be focused on respiratory health, and by means of its Breathefree campaign, Cipla, the pharmaceutical company with the largest respiratory health portfolio in the world, aims to contribute to increase awareness of this treatable and controllable condition.

Cipla’s Golden Thread, “Quality and affordable healthcare for all”, expresses the company’s concern about asthma continuing to be a killer in our country, which doesn’t have to be the case.

Awareness, education and accessible information can turn the situation around. Parents, patients, doctors, support groups and teachers need to be involved, and must be able to recognise the symptoms and take appropriate action. Cipla aims to continue making a contribution on all levels in order to make this happen.

For more information, visit the website of the National Asthma Education Programme



Ask the Expert

Asthma Expert

Professor Keertan Dheda has received of several prestigious awards including the 2014 Oppenheimer Award, and has published over 160 peer-reviewed papers and holds 3 patents related to new TB diagnostic or infection control technologies. He serves on the editorial board of the journals PLoS One, the International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Medicine, Lancet Respiratory Diseases and Nature Scientific Reports, amongst others.Read his full biography at the University of Cape Town Lung Institute

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