Background: Asthma and allergies are common and cause substantial burden in symptoms and suffering, hospitalizations and medication costs. However, despite the high prevalence, asthma burden has already decreased in Finland in 2000s.
Objective: We carried out an asthma barometer survey in all Finnish pharmacies to study changes in asthma severity and control, and use of health care services from 2001 to 2010.
Methods: Asthma severity, comorbid allergic conditions, and use of medication and health care services were assessed in subjects who purchased asthma or allergy medication from the pharmacies all across the country during one week in 2001 and again in 2010. In 2001, 3,062 patients (mean age, 49 years), and in 2010, 1,114 patients (mean age, 51 years) participated.
Results: In 2001 90% and in 2010 73% of the respondents reported physician-diagnosed asthma and were entitled to special reimbursement for their drug costs, i.e., they needed regular maintenance treatment. In 2001, 10% of the asthmatics regarded their disease as severe, compared with 4% in 2010, while the figures for mild asthma were 45% and 62%, respectively (p < 0.001). The proportion of patients needing emergency care during the last year decreased from 34% (2001) to 14% (2010) (p < 0.001) and the need for hospitalizations from 18% to 6% (p < 0.001). Smoking reduced from 24% to 18% among asthmatics ( p = 0.002). In 2010, risk factors for severe asthma were older age, comorbid atopic eczema, and food allergy.
Conclusion: During ten years, self-reported asthma severity has reduced and disease control improved in Finland.
Keywords: Allergy; Drug therapy; Emergency treatment.