• This World Asthma Day is a chance to reflect on how best to help asthma sufferers through the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Collaboration and joint-working are key to tackling this challenge.
  • Here are four key areas of focus to help improve patients' lives.

In such a short space of time, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we think about and value our health forever.

During this extraordinary period, our thoughts are with those whose health has been impacted, the dedicated healthcare workers and patient organizations who are supporting their communities – as well as all those involved in the ongoing science and research efforts.

To mark World Asthma Day, we at AstraZeneca will be standing with the respiratory community, reflecting on the work underway to protect this group of particularly vulnerable patients. Over the last few weeks, we have been in close contact with our partners as we strongly believe that collaboration and joint-working is the only way forward in tackling this challenge. These conversations have allowed us to understand how best to support patients during this incredibly challenging time. As such, I wanted to share my reflections on some of the themes emerging on how we can deliver what patients and physicians need most.

What does COVID-19 mean for people with asthma?

For the 339 million people living with asthma globally, and like all others with chronic respiratory diseases, this pandemic has the potential to cause significant worry and harm to health. The evidence is clear, however, that the best way of staying healthy while living with asthma is to ensure the disease is effectively controlled.

With an estimated 176 million asthma attacks globally every year, there is a responsibility on all of us to understand how we can reduce preventable attacks, and keep patients well and out of hospital where possible. But how can collaboration across the respiratory community support these at-risk patients?

Collaboration means bringing together our skills, resources and knowledge, with partners creating a movement greater than the sum of its parts. This World Asthma Day, the message from the asthma community is that there are multiple areas where our flexibility, adaptability and resilience as a community have the potential to make a huge difference to patients’ lives. Some key areas of focus follow.

Self-management

With the symptoms of almost half of those living with asthma not sufficiently controlled – and at a time when it may be harder for patients to engage with their healthcare professionals – we must help to empower patients to self-manage their asthma effectively. It is for this reason that on this World Asthma Day, AstraZeneca has collaborated with leading global respiratory experts to provide a summary of essential guidance and is working with the Global Allergy and Airways Patient Platform to share information patients can trust.

Caring for the most vulnerable patients at home

Treatments that traditionally would have been only in hospitals are now available via telemedicine and digital patient support programmes, reducing the time spent in clinics and relieving pressure on already stretched health systems. This is taking us into a new era of disease management. Work is underway in severe asthma – where patients are particularly vulnerable – to partner with tech companies and hospitals, supporting a rapid move to home and self-administration of biologic medicines.

Collective efforts

Science has the power to change the world for the better. Responding to COVID-19 requires a collective effort from everyone working in healthcare and, at AstraZeneca, we are committed to playing our part. Our internal experts are joining forces with international health authorities, governments, academia and industry peers to accelerate the development of medicines to prevent or treat the infection, to boost diagnostic testing, and to help protect healthcare workers on the frontline.

In addition to investigating our new and existing medicines to treat the infection, we have recently announced a landmark agreement with the University of Oxford for the global development and distribution of the University’s potential vaccine. Alongside our focus to find new and preventative treatment approaches, we are also accelerating the development of our diagnostic testing capabilities to scale-up screening for COVID-19, in partnership with governments on existing screening programmes to supplement testing.

Reviewing guidelines

COVID-19 requires that we re-examine how we manage people with asthma, to ensure they receive a high-quality level of care during this pandemic. Given the pressure on hospital and healthcare resources globally, the patient and clinical communities are working collaboratively to explore how we can translate the latest science in managing asthma as a chronic, inflammatory disease into guidelines around the globe. We would consider that industry also has a role to play, in sharing new evidence and data to help shape guidelines.

For example, we know that authorities in the UK have taken steps to keep patients with severe asthma out of hospital. Globally, we’ve seen GINA, the global professional organisation providing evidence-based recommendations, update its Global Strategy for Asthma Management and Prevention to include interim guidance on COVID-19.

Looking forward

Creating this level of change at pace requires us to all come together. It is more important than ever to talk about how as a global community we can reform the way that we manage asthma to ensure we are able to transition into this ‘new normal’, in a way that minimises harm for patients and maximises opportunities for effective disease management.

We stand with the global asthma community during this exceptionally challenging time, with a continued commitment of doing the right thing, putting patients first, following the science. This is a critical time for collaboration. We will get through this period together, and we will come out of it stronger.

Document number: Z4-23808
Date of preparation: May 2020
Date of expiry: May 2021