Asthma sufferers are needlessly dying due to patient complacency and poor treatment, according to a new report out of the U.K.

The National Review of Asthma Deaths, led by the Royal College of Physicians, examined 195 patients in the United Kingdom who were thought to have died from asthma.

Researchers identified factors that could have prevented death in 65 per cent of the patients who died. These factors include: tobacco smoking, exposure to second-hand smoke, non-adherence to medical advice and non-attendance at review appointments.

The researchers found that in nearly half of the 195 cases, asthma sufferers had received no medical attention at the time of their death.

The U.K. has one of the highest asthma rates in the world; up to 5.4 million people in region are currently receiving treatment for the chronic inflammatory disease.

In Canada, approximately 3 million people suffer from asthma, 13 per cent of whom are children.

Uncontrolled asthma is the leading cause of asthma-related hospital admissions in Canada. Each year, approximately 500 children and adults die of the disease.

A recent study by the Asthma Society of Canada found that only 17 per cent of respondents believed that their asthma was well-controlled.

“We found that about half the patients that we interviewed do not really recognize the severity of their illness,” Dr. Robert Oliphant, president and CEO of the Asthma Society of Canada, told CTV News.

Meanwhile, Martyn R. Partridge, a professor of respiratory medicine at the Imperial College of London, says the U.K. report’s findings should “lead to a shake-up, more training and monitoring, and an end to the complacency that has arisen regarding this common condition.”

Other key factors that contributed to the deaths of the 195 asthma sufferers include:

Poor use of National Health Service

  • More than half (57 per cent) of the 195 people who died from asthma were not under specialist supervision in the year before their death.
  • 47 per cent of the people who died from asthma had a history of previous hospital admission for asthma.

Improper medicine prescription and use

  • Researchers found that an excessive amount of patients were prescribed short-acting “reliever” inhalers rather than “preventer” inhalers. “Those prescribed more than 12 reliever inhalers were likely to have had poorly controlled asthma,” the report says.
  • In 62 per cent of the cases, the quality of routine care was assessed as “inadequate.”

Patient complacency

  • Poor adherence to medical advice was identified in 48 per cent of the cases.
  • 34 per cent of the 195 people who died from asthma did not seem to be taking appropriate medication despite being prescribed the medication.
  • 19 per cent of those who died were smokers.

With a report by CTV’s medical correspondent Avis Favaro and producer Elizabeth St. Philip