Asthma, and severe asthma in particular, is often managed within a specialized field with allergists and clinical immunologists playing a leading role. In this respect, the National Scientific Society SIAAIC (Società Italiana di Allergologia, Asma ed Immunologia Clinica), structured in Regional and Inter-Regional sections, interviewed a large number of specialists involved in the management of this respiratory disease.
A survey entitled “Management of patients with asthma and severe asthma” based on 17 questions was conducted through the SIAAIC newsletter in 2019 thanks to the collaboration between GlaxoSmithKline S.p.A. and the Inter-Regional Section of SIAAIC of Central Italy.
Fifty-nine allergists and clinical immunologists participated to the survey, and 40 of them completed the entire questionnaire. Almost all of the specialists (88%) reported that asthma control was achieved in above 50% of their patients, even if only one third (32%) actually used validated clinical tools such as asthma control test (ACT). Poor adherence to inhaled therapy was recognized as the main cause of asthma control failure by 60% of respondents, and 2–5 min on average is dedicated to the patient inhaler technique training by two-thirds of the experts (65%). Maintenance and as-needed therapy (SMART/MART) is considered an appropriate approach in only a minority of the patients (25%) by one half of the respondents (52%). A high number of exacerbations despite the maximum inhalation therapy were recognized as highly suspicious of severe asthma. Patients eligible for biological therapies are 3–5% of the patients, and almost all the responders (95%) agreed that patients affected by severe asthma need to be managed in specialized centers with dedicated settings. Biological drugs are generally prescribed after 3–6 months from the initial access to the center, and once started, the follow-up is initially programmed monthly, and then every 3–6 months after the first year of treatment (96% of responders). After phenotyping and severity assessment, comorbidities (urticaria, chronic rhinosinusitis with or without nasal polyps, vasculitis, etc.) are the drivers of choice among the different biological drugs. In the management of severe asthma, general practitioners (GPs) should play a central role in selecting patients and referring them to specialized centers while Scientific Societies should train GPs to appropriately recognize difficult asthma and promote public disease awareness campaigns.
This survey which collects the point of view of allergists and clinical immunologists from Central Italy highlights that asthma control is still not measured with validated instruments. There is a general consensus that severe asthma should be managed only in dedicated centers and to this aim it is essential to encourage patient selection from a primary care setting and develop disease awareness campaigns for patients.