My response: I'm looking at a page in "Asthma: The Biography," by Mark Jackson. This is a remarkably thorough read about the history of asthma. The page I'm looking at discusses fatal asthma.
In the 19th century many doctors wrote that they rarely ever observed any one dying of true asthma. It was a disease that caused some suffering for a few days, yet usually let up eventually. My asthma is like this. I have an attack, it can be terrible, yet in a few days I know I'll get better whether or not I take medicine for it. The difference between now and the 19th century is today we have medicine to relieve our suffering. No one should have to suffer from a bad asthma attack anymore.
Yet no one died from asthma back then. That changed in the 20th century. It changed when epinepherine was used to treat asthma in 1900. Asthma deaths spiked again after the rescue inhaler was invented in 1952, and the first long acting rescue medicine was invented in the 1970s.
The first impression of asthma doctors was to blame the same medicine that helped asthmatics. They believed the medicine was killing asthmatics. The main cause of death was considered to be due to the cardiac effect of the medicine. This usually resulted when patients would abuse the medicine.
I think this may have contributed to some deaths, yet I think these scientists got it all wrong. I think the reason asthma deaths started to rise in 1900 is because more people were diagnosed that weren't previously diagnosed. I think one of the reasons is that you had medicines to help asthmatics if they were diagnosed.
Even recently Advair is blamed for killing some asthmatics. Yet I don't think that medicine would kill a fly. The medicine in Advair is no different that ventolin, it's just the longer acting version of ventolin. I've used an entire inhaler of Ventolin plus taken extra hits on my Advair and still survived.
I think the reason Advair gets blamed for asthma deaths is because the EMTs arrived at the person's home and saw the Advair clutched in the hands of the asthmatic. So the Advair was given the blame for the death. Yet the true reason was because instead of calling for help the asthmatic relied on the medicine. The medicine wasn't working, but by the time the patient realized this it was too late.
So I believe the reason for the rise, at times, in asthma deaths is due to lack of education. It has little to nothing to do with the medicine. And I think that black box warnings on such inhalers, or taking them off the market, does more harm than good. It prevents asthmatics from getting the medicine they need to help them.
So thus is my unedited rant.
This post was written as part of NHBPM – 30 health posts in 30 days: http://bit.ly/vU0g9J