Severe asthma

200,000 people have severe asthma.

This is a type of asthma which does not respond to regularly taken asthma treatments. As a last resort people are often forced to rely on regular or long-term high-dose oral steroid tablets, which although life-saving, can have terrible side effects including weight gain, disturbed sleep, diabetes, cataracts and osteoporosis.

Devastating lives

Severe asthma can have devastating consequences on every aspect of people’s lives including employment, education, social life and relationships. It can particularly impact on people’s mental health leaving people feeling anxious, scared and isolated, left without hope and the right support. We now have life-changing drugs called biologics, but we know that three out four eligible for these drugs are still missing out.

I just wish I had been put on this biologic a lot sooner. Because the period I was suffering, you can’t explain it in words. It was really, really hard for me. It was just so depressing that sometimes you think your life is just not worth living anymore.”

Person with severe asthma

Fighting for treatments and services

Great advances have been made in treating severe asthma over the last few years. Specialist services can provide holistic multidisciplinary care and provide access to potentially life-changing biologic treatment, yet four out of five people who should be referred to a specialist care are still missing out.

We need change

  • Repeated oral steroid use must be seen as a failure of asthma management and prompt urgent action and appropriate referral.
  • Primary and secondary care clinicians need to be pro-active to recognise and refer those with suspected severe asthma.
  • NICE should develop a single comprehensive severe asthma guideline to support healthcare professionals on when and how to refer.
  • There needs to be a system-wide drive to increase and speed up access to biologic treatment for all those eligible.

Take action

Could you have severe asthma?

Share your story and help get asthma taken more seriously

Read more

Do no harm: safer and better treatment options for people with asthma (2020)

Falling into isolation: lived experience of people with severe asthma (2020)

Living in limbo: the scale of unmet need in difficult and severe asthma (2019)

Slipping through the net: the reality facing patients with difficult and severe asthma (2018)