Asthma: When Every Breath Counts
Data Decision Group
Asthma is a complex disease state, the true prevalence of which is difficult to assess. This is due to many factors,among them:
• The lack of a single objective diagnostic test;
• Different methods of classification of the condition;
• The lack of a common standard of diagnosis in different countries; and
• Poor public and professional awareness of asthma.
Asthma’s Impact on Society
The impact of asthma has a high global economic cost to society. The number of disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) lost due to asthma worldwide has been estimated to be currently about 15 million per year.1 DALYs are a metric used to compare information about morbidity and mortality in different disease states. The disease-specific health loss number is calculated by the sum of years of life lost and years lived with disability, weighted for severity. The disability weighting is performed by an expert panel on a scale from zero (perfect health) to one (death). Worldwide, asthma accounts for around 1 percent of all DALYs lost, which reflects the high prevalence and severity of asthma. The number of DALYs lost due to asthma is similar to that for diabetes, cirrhosis of the liver, and schizophrenia.
Definition of Clinical Asthma
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the airways. Inflammation causes the airways to spasm and swell so that the airways narrow. Obstruction to air flow responds to a wide range of therapies, but chronic inflammation makes the airways hypersensitive to cold air, exercise, dust mites, air pollution, or stress and anxiety.
By the Numbers
In 2007, approximately 34.1 million Americans, 9 million of them children, had been diagnosed with asthma.2 This number is increasing, especially among children under age 6. Experts estimate that asthma causes 3,500-5,000 deaths annually in the United States. In 2007, asthma was the root cause for approximately 217,000 emergency room visits and 10.4 million visits to a physician. Its estimated cost to the U.S. economy is $19.7 billion.
Worldwide, asthma is estimated to affect 300 million people. Asthma shares a close link with allergies. It is estimated that 75 percent of people with asthma also have allergies.
Globally, asthma is becoming more common in both children and adults.4 The increase in the prevalence of asthma has been associated with an increase in atopic sensitization, and has a high correlation to increases in other allergic disease states such as eczema and rhinitis.5
Prevalence rates of asthma increase as communities become urbanized and assume Western lifestyles. The number of asthma cases in the urban segment of the world’s population is projected to increase from 45 percent to 59 percent by 2025. This growth will help drive a significant increase in the total number of global asthma sufferers in the next fifteen years. By 2025, it is estimated that there may be an additional 100 million people suffering from asthma worldwide.6
The key takeaway from Chart 2 is the low correlation between fatalities from asthma and access to medications to treat asthma.
Asthma’s causes need to be studied and better understood. There is great opportunity for the medical device, diagnostics and pharmaceutical industries to reduce morbidity and mortality in this high prevalence and greatly underserved disease state.
1. Allergy 2004: 59: 469–478 The global burden of asthma: executive summary of the GINA Dissemination Committee Report
2. American Lung Association; www.lungusa.org
3. Allergy 2004: 59: 469–478 The global burden of asthma: executive summary of the GINA Dissemination Committee Report
4. Burney P. The changing prevalence of asthma? Thorax 2002; 57 (Suppl II): ii36–ii39.
5. International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC) Steering Committee. Worldwide variation in prevalence of symptoms of asthma, allergic rhinoconjunctivitis, and atopic eczema: ISAAC. Lancet 1998;351:1225–32.
6. Murray CJL, Lopez AD. Global mortality, disability, and the contribution of risk factors: Global Burden of Disease Study. Lancet 1997; 349:1436–42.
Maria Shepherd, founder of Data Decision Group, has 20 years of leadership experience in medical device/life-sciences marketing in small startups and top-tier companies. The firm quantitatively and qualitatively sizes opportunities, evaluates new technologies, and assesses prospective acquisitions. Shepherd can be reached at (617) 548-9892 or at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.ddecisiongroup.com.