Asthma is a global health problem affecting around 300 million patients of all ages and ethnic groups in all countries around the world. In the majority of subjects with persistent, mild-to-moderate asthma (MA), the disease can be relatively well controlled by the use of currently available medications; however, five to ten per cent of patients suffer from a particularly severe disease that is poorly controlled clinically and often refractory to usual treatment. Improved care of severe asthma (SA) is a major unmet medical need and several international consortia aim at improving our understanding of mechanisms in SA. To manage SA better, standardized definitions and concepts of asthma severity, risk and level of control are critical. In the following sections, we present several guidelines approaches and definitions followed by an overview of U.S. (SARP) and European (ENFUMOSA, BIOAIR, U-BIOPRED) SA networks. Key findings regarding SA phenotypes, risk factors and pathophysiology are discussed. International cooperation in the area of respiratory diseases, including SA, across the Atlantic Ocean, will lead to a better understanding of asthma pathology, especially of those severe, not well controlled or difficult-to-treat cases.
© 2012 The Association for the Publication of the Journal of Internal Medicine.