Changing asthma medicines

Advice and reassurance if your medicines or inhalers have changed. 

Some reasons why your medicines might change

To help you manage your asthma symptoms  

Your GP or asthma nurse may suggest changing your medicines when you have your annual review or if your asthma symptoms are getting worse.  

Your healthcare professional may give you a different inhaler to help manage your asthma. For example, they might change you to a single inhaler that works as a preventer and reliever. This is called Maintenance and Reliever Therapy (MART).

Your medicines might also change if your asthma is well controlled. Your new medicines or inhalers will help make sure you’re on the lowest dose possible to keep your asthma symptoms under control. 

“It might take some time to find the right medicines or inhalers to help you manage your asthma well. Try not to be discouraged if you have to try a few different treatment options before you find the one that works for you.” – Dr Andrew Whittamore, Asthma + Lung UK’s GP

To make sure your inhaler is the right one for you

If you find it hard to use your inhaler or spacer, you could change to one that’s easier for you to use. Your GP, asthma nurse, or pharmacist may be able to suggest a different medicine or inhaler if:

you would find it helpful to have a dose counter 

  • you want an inhaler that’s easier to clean
  • you would find it helpful to have a dose counter
  • you want an inhaler that you can use without a spacer
  • you want an inhaler that’s smaller or easier to carry around
  • you have other conditions that make it hard for you to use your inhaler, like arthritis. 

To change to a lower-carbon inhaler

Your doctor might talk to you about changing to a lower-carbon inhaler. Dry powder inhalers (DPIs) and soft mist inhalers (SMIs) are both types of lower-carbon inhalers.  These types of inhalers don’t contain the greenhouse gas propellants that are found in the pressurised metered dose inhalers (pMDI) prescribed to lots of people with asthma. 

Lower-carbon inhalers aren’t suitable for everyone. If you need to stay on a pMDI, there are still lower-carbon pMDIs that you could try, like Salamol.  

Read more about lower-carbon inhalers.

“The most important thing is having an inhaler that you can use correctly and helps you manage your lung condition.  If you are unable to change to a lower-carbon inhaler, there are other things you can do to manage your asthma and help the environment at the same time. These include making sure you use a spacer with your pMDI, ensuring you use the right inhaler technique, and taking your preventer inhaler as prescribed.” – Dr Andrew Whittamore, Asthma + Lung UK's GP. 

To save the NHS money 

Different companies make medicines using the same ingredients, but some brands are more expensive than others. Your GP may prescribe you a different brand of inhaler because it works just as well, but costs less and saves the NHS money.  

Because of low supplies

Your local pharmacy could run out of the medicine you usually use. This could happen for a lot of reasons, like sudden increased demand or global events, which can cause manufacturing issues.  

If this happens, you could speak to your GP, asthma nurse or pharmacist and find a different medicine that works for you. 

Read more about medicine shortages.

Common questions about changing medicines

Your GP will only consider changing your medicines or inhaler if they consider it safe to do so.

It’s important that you are happy with your asthma treatment. If you have any concerns, you can speak to your GP, asthma nurse or pharmacist. They are there to help you find the best treatment for you. 

If your GP or asthma nurse prescribes you a new type of inhaler, they should show you how to use it. It’s important to know the correct inhaler technique so that you can get the full benefit of your medicine.  

You can also watch our short inhaler videos to find out how to use your inhaler.  

All medicines have possible side effects, but this does not mean that you will get them. Find out more about the side effects of asthma medicines. Talk to your GP, asthma nurse, or pharmacist if you are concerned about side effects. 

Maintenance and Reliever Therapy (MART) is a type of asthma treatment plan. If you’re on a MART plan you will be prescribed one inhaler to use, instead of two separate preventer and reliever inhalers.

We have more detailed information about MART.

If you’ve been given a medicine which has a different name, it might be because you’ve been given a different brand of your medicine. The NHS sometimes uses other brands because they cost less, but work just as well, and contain the same ingredients.

If you have any questions about your medicines, speak to your GP, asthma nurse or pharmacist. 

If you have asthma, you will usually be prescribed a preventer inhaler and a reliever inhaler. Your reliever inhaler is usually blue unless you are on a Maintenance and Reliever Therapy (MART) regime and only use one inhaler. Your preventer inhaler could come in a lot of different colours. 

If your new inhaler is a different colour, your healthcare professional may have prescribed you a different:

  • brand of inhaler 
  • type of inhaler 
  • dose of inhaler. 

You can speak to your healthcare professional if you’re worried. They can reassure you that your new inhaler is right for you. 

If you are on a Maintenance and Reliever Therapy (MART) regime, you’ll be prescribed one inhaler that works as both a preventer and reliever inhaler. 

Take your old inhalers to your local pharmacy, instead of putting them in the bin. Your pharmacy can get rid of them in the most environmentally-friendly way. They can also dispose of other old or unwanted medicines safely.   

There are other things you can do to help your asthma and the environment at the same time.

Some inhalers are linked to the tobacco industry. If you feel uncomfortable using a device or brand that is linked to the tobacco industry, you can ask to change medicines.

Whatever happens, your priority and that of your healthcare professional is to make sure that you have medication that is safe and works for you. Do not stop taking the inhalers that you have been prescribed without speaking to a healthcare professional. 

Find out more about inhalers and the tobacco industry

Getting used to your new medicines

Make sure to:

  • Get into a good routine and take your medicines as prescribed. 
  • Track your symptoms. You could keep a symptom diary or record your peak flow scores
  • Check your inhaler technique. You can use our short videos to find out the best way to take your medicines. 
  • Update your asthma action plan. Add your new medicines or inhalers, so that you know how to manage your asthma well. 
  • Book a follow up appointment. You should have an appointment with your GP or asthma nurse four to eight weeks after your medicines change. This is an opportunity for you to discuss how your new medicines are working.
  • Attend your annual asthma review. This is an opportunity for you to speak to your GP or asthma nurse about your medicines and managing your asthma symptoms. 

Get support

Call our Helpline for support with your condition. Get advice on your medicines, symptoms or travelling with a lung condition, or just call us to say hello.

Did you find this information useful?

We use your comments to improve our information. We cannot reply to comments left on this form. If you have health concerns or need clinical advice, call our helpline on 0300 222 5800 between 9am and 5pm on a weekday or email them.

Page last reviewed:
Next review due: