A preliminary retrospective treatment and pharmacoeconomic analysis of asthma care provided by allergists, immunologists, and primary care physicians in a teaching hospital

J Asthma. 2002 Aug;39(5):405-12. doi: 10.1081/jas-120004033.


Allergy immunology specialists (AIs) differ from primary care physicians (PCP) in their treatment of asthma. A limited retrospective chart review of several visits over a 1-year period in 1997 evaluating the quality of asthma care by AIs vs. PCPs was conducted in an academic center. Data concerning quality, effectiveness and cost of asthma care was randomly collected from 15 AIs and 15 PCPs from charts at 3-month intervals over a 1-year period. Information obtained from data collection forms revealed that asthma patients evaluated by AIs had more visits and received a greater quantity of medication compared to those treated by PCPs. All 15 patients with persistent asthma followed by AIs were treated with inhaled corticosteroids at each visit in contrast to only 80% of those treated by PCPs. The total numbers of controller medications (i.e., inhaled corticosteroids, salmeterol, cromolyn, and theophylline) that were utilized, as recommended, by the National Asthma Expert Panel (NAEP) of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) guidelines were 70 by AIs vs. 24 by PCPs over three visits. Cromolyn was prescribed five times over three visits by AIs and not at all by PCPs. Recognition and treatment of coexisting allergic rhinitis was evident in only 13% of patients treated by PCPs as compared to 80% in those treated by AIS. (p < 0.0001). However, all patients treated by AIs were skin tested to explore the presence of allergic triggers, while no patients treated by PCPs were evaluated for IgE-mediated reactions. Treatment cost for allergic rhinitis was therefore higher, at $2039, for AIs as compared to $741 for PCPs. There were no peakflow values in charts obtained from PCPs. However, all charts from AIs had peakflow values, which improved during the course of therapy in 33% of patients. Total medication costs for asthma were higher for AIs @ $5,646.30 vs. $1,932.25 for PCPs. Total medication costs for allergic rhinitis plus asthma were higher for AIs @ $7615 vs. $2681 for PCPs. However, patients treated by AIs had more severe asthma and required more frequent visits. Ipratropium bromide was prescribed a total of four times over several visits by PCPs vs. only once by AIs. In comparing asthma care between AI specialists and PCPs, it was found that AI specialists treat more severe asthmatics, provide more frequent follow-up visits, utilize peak flow rates, prescribe more controller medications, and more often recognize and treat comorbid conditions such as allergic rhinitis that impact on asthma care. Thus, although treatment costs for AIs are higher, these costs are justified by a quality of care that is more consistent with national (NHLBI) guidelines.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Allergy and Immunology*
  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents / economics*
  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Asthma / complications
  • Asthma / diagnosis
  • Asthma / drug therapy*
  • Drug Costs*
  • Female
  • Health Care Costs
  • Hospitals, Teaching*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Peak Expiratory Flow Rate
  • Physicians, Family*
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents