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New and updated resources on correct inhaler technique are now available.

Research shows up to 90% of patients incorrectly use their inhalers for asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The National Asthma Council Australia’s information paper and medication charts provides clear guidance and practice recommendations. It incorporates new medicines and devices that have come onto the market in the past two years.

National Asthma Council Australia Asthma and Respiratory Educator and Nurse Judi Wicking said it was difficult for health professionals to keep track of all the inhalers, especially as new medicines and devices continued to become available.

“The resources are aimed to clarify the confusion. They are for anyone who works with patients on inhaled medication. For example, the DuoResp Spiromax looks like a puffer but it’s a dry powder.”

The updated Inhaler technique for people with asthma or COPD information paper includes checklists for using new respiratory devices. Charts have been updated to include the latest inhalers and the main intranasal treatment options available in Australia.

“There are 35 different medications on the charts, some people will use four different medications for the one device,” Ms Wicking said.

An Australian study found that 75% of patients using an inhaler for two to three years reported they were using their inhaler correctly, but on objective checking, only 10% had the correct technique.

“Many health professionals don’t realise how common poor technique is, nor how big an impact this can have on asthma and COPD management,” Ms Wicking said.

One of the most common mistakes was not shaking in between doses, she said.

“You get people overusing their inhalers due to poor technique and not getting enough medication which results in asthma that is not well controlled. The good news is that correcting patients’ inhaler technique has been shown to improve lung function, quality of life and asthma control.”

The National Asthma Council Australia’s how-to videos show an asthma and respiratory educator and a patient demonstrating correct technique.

It was important nurses asked their patients to show them how they used their inhalers and then provided one-on-one training to ensure that proper technique was used, Ms Wicking said. “It’s a good idea for all of us to check our own techniques, especially for new devices.”

Ongoing review should occur by the pharmacist at dispensing, the GP and the practice nurse, and the asthma respiratory educator. Inhaler technique should always be checked before considering dose escalation or add-on therapy, Ms Wicking said. “It’s not just prescribing a medication but making sure it’s appropriate to the individual patient in managing devices – age appropriate, skills appropriate and the patient having a choice.”