A new national survey of more than 1,000 uncontrolled asthma patients revealed that 67% of adults with uncontrolled asthma in the US are living with the misperception that their condition is under control, according to a news release by GlaxoSmithKline. The survey results may suggest uncontrolled patients feel a false sense of confidence in managing their condition that may be driving recurring symptoms, and doctor, emergency room and urgent care visits, GSK said.

The State of Uncontrolled Asthma Patients in America Survey, funded and developed by GSK, included 1,016 patients who scored 5-19 on the Asthma Control Test (ACT) – a level of asthma management considered to be “uncontrolled.” Patients who scored 5-15 on the ACT were classified as “very poorly controlled,” while patients who scored 16-19 were classified as “not-well controlled.”

The survey found that the misperception of control is pervasive, even when uncontrolled patients are grouped into those who are “not-well controlled”* and those with more asthma symptoms, or “very poorly controlled.” The findings show that among “not-well controlled” surveyed asthma patients, 78% believe that they actually do have their asthma under control. Among those classified as “very poorly controlled,” 55% reported thinking their asthma is under control. This misperception may prevent them from effectively managing their asthma.

“Understanding patient misperceptions of their degree of asthma control is critical to improving the quality of their asthma care,” said Mark Forshag, MD, a pulmonologist and US Medical Affairs Lead at GSK. “The survey illustrates there is still a significant need to help patients go beyond merely coping with symptoms to managing their condition. We encourage patients talk to their doctor about proactively managing their asthma and appropriate treatment options.”

Overconfidence May Drive Recurring Symptoms and Doctor Visits

Seventy-six percent of respondents who think their asthma is under control feel confident that they can do the tasks and activities needed to manage their condition in order to reduce their need to see a doctor. However, 64% of these patients visited a health care provider as a result of their asthma symptoms, averaging three visits over the past 12 months.

While many uncontrolled asthma patients state they try to proactively manage their condition with medication and trigger avoidance, nearly three in four (74%) experience symptoms multiple times a week. Additionally, while 89% of uncontrolled asthma patients are confident they are capable of changing certain behaviors to better manage their condition, only one in two (50%) of these patients report having a clear understanding of their illness. This false sense of confidence suggests patients may lack the necessary tools to effectively engage in the management of their disease.

The survey found that recurring symptoms, lack of understanding, tools and resources may result in increased visits to the doctor, emergency room and urgent care due to their condition:

  • One in five (20%) uncontrolled asthma patients needed to visit an emergency room or urgent care facility due to their condition in the past 12 months, which could present an opportunity to better educate uncontrolled asthma patients on disease management and treatment regimens.
  • Surveyed patients with “very poorly controlled” asthma are nearly twice as likely to have visited an emergency room or urgent care facility in the last year due to their condition, compared to those with “not well-controlled” asthma (27% vs. 15%).
  • Forty percent of those who used a rescue inhaler at least three times a day in the past month visited an emergency room or urgent care facility in the last year, compared to 18% of those who did not require a rescue inhaler this often.

The Physical and Emotional Toll of Uncontrolled Asthma

According to the survey, uncontrolled asthma takes a heavy toll on those with the condition, keeping many patients from living a full life and proving to be a frequent source of stress: 

  • Seventy percent of uncontrolled asthma patients who believe their asthma is under control go on to report that their condition holds them back from doing things they’d like to do – interfering with exercise (85%), sleep (78%), enjoyment of life (67%) and social life (45%) in the past 12 months.
  • Fifty three percent of those who are employed missed work in the past 12 months because of their asthma, with these patients averaging eight missed days of work in the past year.
  • More than half (56%) of uncontrolled asthma patients admit their condition is a source of stress in their life. A greater proportion of “very poorly controlled” asthma patients, compared to “not well-controlled” asthma patients, state their asthma causes them stress (72% vs. 43%) and say they worry about their asthma on a regular basis (66% vs. 37%).