Potential negative consequences of non-consented switch of inhaled medications and devices in asthma patients

Int J Clin Pract. 2013 Sep;67(9):904-10. doi: 10.1111/ijcp.12202. Epub 2013 Jun 16.


Background: Asthma requires individually tailored and careful management to control and prevent symptoms and exacerbations. Selection of the most appropriate treatment is dependent on both the choice of drugs and inhaler device; however, financial pressures may result in patients being switched to alternative medications and devices in an attempt to reduce costs.

Aim: This review aimed to examine the published literature in order to ascertain whether switching a patient's asthma medications or device negatively impacts clinical and economic outcomes.

Materials and methods: A literature search of MEDLINE (2001-13 September 2011) was conducted to identify English-language articles focused on the direct impact of switching medications and inhaler devices and switching from fixed-dose combination to monocomponent therapy via separate inhalers in patients with asthma; the indirect impacts of switching were also assessed.

Results: Evidence showed that non-consented switching of medications and inhalers in patients with asthma can be associated with a range of negative outcomes, at both individual and organisational levels. Factors that reduce adherence may lead to compromised symptom control resulting in increased healthcare resource utilisation and poorer patient quality of life.

Discussion: The consequences of a non-consented switch should be weighed carefully against arguments supporting an inhaler switch without the patient's consent for non-medical/budgetary reasons, such as potential reductions in initial acquisition costs, which may be associated with subsequent additional healthcare needs.

Conclusion: Given the increasing pressure for reduced costs and efficient allocation of limited healthcare resources, an additional investment in ensuring high medication adherence may lead to greater savings due to a potentially decreased demand for healthcare services. In contrast, savings achieved in acquisition costs may result in a greater net loss due to increased healthcare consumption caused by decreased asthma control.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents / economics
  • Asthma / drug therapy*
  • Asthma / economics
  • Asthma / prevention & control
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Drug Substitution / economics*
  • Drug Therapy, Combination / economics
  • Health Resources / economics
  • Health Resources / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Medication Adherence
  • Nebulizers and Vaporizers / economics*


  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents