Asthma: U.S. and Globally

Asthma is a chronic lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways, causing recurring periods of wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and coughing.  According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), in the United States, more than 25 million people are known to have asthma; about 7 million of these people are children.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has similar numbers, stating that 24 million Americans have asthma and that annually, asthma attacks result in 1.8 million emergency department visits and 3,400 deaths.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that asthma currently affects 235 million people around the globe.   It is estimated that the number of people with asthma will grow by more than 100 million by 2025.  A 2014 report by the Global Asthma Network suggests that as many as 334 million people have asthma.  The report notes that the highest burden of the disease is found in Australia and New Zealand, some countries in Africa, the Middle East and South America, and North-Western Europe.  The report concludes with:

“Little is known about asthma in the many countries where it has not been studied, and little information is available about asthma in adults over the age of 45.”

The 2015 Drug Trend Report by Express Scripts conveyed a number of interesting statistics.  Regarding asthma in the United States, a few highlights are:

Asthma drugs are among the top three most expensive traditional therapy classes for Medicaid patients.

Medicaid per member per year payments increased 2.6% between 2014 and 2015 on asthma drugs.

Spending on asthma drugs is anticipated to increase in 2016 and 2017, but remain flat in 2018.

Additionally, the U.S. government notes that while Asthma medication spending decreased 1.6% between 2014 and 2015, costs are still extremely high.  In fact, the annual costs related to asthma are $56 billion ($50 billion is attributable to direct costs such as hospital stays; $6 billion is attributable to indirect costs such as lost pay from illness or death).


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