South African Medical Journal

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An assessment of asthmatic patients at four Western Cape community pharmacies

A Bheekie, J A Syce, E G Weinberg


Objectives. To identify the profile of asthmatic patients visiting community pharmacies and to assess the appropriateness of their current asthma therapy.

Design. Patients were identified as either chronic, newly diagnosed or undiagnosed. Asthma status was assessed from their current symptom and medication profiles and from performance in an airways responsiveness test. Reversibility of > 15% was suggestive of probable airflow obstruction and such patients were referred to a medical practitioner.

Setting. Four community pharmacies located in different socio-economic areas, viz. Khayelitsha, Wynberg, Mitchell's Plain and Vrijzee, were selected.

Subjects. Participants over the age of 6 years, who suffered from recurrent cough, wheeze, chest tightness and/or breathlessness and used over-the-counter (OTC) and/or asthma medications, completed a questionnaire and participated in the airways responsiveness test. Outcome measures. Effective control of asthma based on minimal symptoms, appropriate use of bronchodilator and anti-inflammatory therapies and absence of airflow obstruction.

Results. Of the 220 participants, 120 were identified as chronic, 7 as newly diagnosed and 93 as undiagnosed. Chronic asthmatics suffered daily symptoms and used inadequate prophylactic anti-inflammatory therapy. Many undiagnosed asthmatics were unaware of their symptoms and took OTC medication indiscriminately. Based on peak expiratory flow rate measurements, > 50% of the screened patients displayed a reversibility of > 15%.

Conclusions. Chronic and many undiagnosed asthmatic patients frequent community pharmacies for their medication. Such patients suffer recurrent asthma symptoms and use medication inappropriately, which results in suboptimal lung function. Pharmacists should play a more participatory role in the detection andmanagement of asthma in the community.

AJOL African Journals Online