New centre to tackle asthma deaths

Asthma crop

A new centre for research into the causes and treatments for asthma in Edinburgh is to ensure new treatments reach patients in a third of the time

13th May 2014 by Robert Armour 0 Comments

A new centre for asthma aims to slash the time it takes for research to be turned into effective treatments for patients from an estimated 17 years to just five.

The Edinburgh-based Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research has been created by the charity Asthma UK and will be coordinated by Edinburgh University and Queen Mary University of London, and involve doctors and scientists from all over the UK.

It will focus on improving the quality of life for people with the disease and finding better treatments faster.

There are tens of thousands of people with asthma facing a daily struggle to breathe - Gordon Brown

More than five million people in the UK are affected by asthma yet research into the life-threatening condition is chronically underfunded. It currently takes an average of 17 years to develop a new treatment.

Asthma UK’s vision is to reduce this period to five years and to develop the next generation of world class asthma researchers.

Gordon Brown of Asthma UK Scotland said the centre would collaborate and not compete with other organisations in a bid to halt the estimated 89 deaths a year from the condition in Scotland.

"The introduction into clinical use of the pressurised metered-dose inhaler – the first modern inhaler for asthma management – took over 40 years from initial lab discovery through clinical trials and into practice.

"More than half a century later asthma still kills and there are tens of thousands of people with asthma facing a daily struggle to breathe.

"This is why it is so vital for Asthma UK to invest significantly in the Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research and to kick start a new era of improved discovery-to-treatment times."

He said there is currently no infrastructure supporting researchers.

This means when research yields results, it takes far too long to reach the people that need it most.

Centre director Aziz Sheikh said the charity-backed centre addresses a very real need for collaborative research that can undertake large-scale trials with the potential to benefit the millions.

He added: “I’m delighted that some of the UK’s top asthma researchers are contributing to this unprecedented initiative where they can share expertise and insights to drive forward major improvements in asthma care provision and better outcomes for our patients.”

The launch of the centre comes a week after the National Review of Asthma Deaths revealed the UK has some of the highest asthma death rates in Europe, with latest data showing asthma deaths are increasing.

In Scotland, there were 89 deaths in 2012 and 6,080 emergency hospital admissions for asthma.

Researchers found that in nearly half of the cases they looked at people with asthma did not receive any medical help during their final asthma attack.