Patients suffering from asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) at B J Government Medical College and Sassoon general hospital no longer have to use outdated oral medication.

In a first, the state’s largest government hospital has procured asthma inhalers that can deliver medication to the lungs.

From April this year, at least 85 patients — in the outpatient department — have benefited from the free-of-cost inhalers. The inhalers are expensive and a single one costs between Rs 850-1050.

Daily, around 3,000 patients attend the OPD at Sassoon General Hospital and at least 8,000 general drugs are being dispensed every day. The main benefit is that patients will no longer have to come on a weekly basis as the metered dose inhaler can last up to two months.

However, authorities at the B J Government medical college and Sassoon general hospital –seeking to make a larger purchase –find that not many vendors are responding to their appeal to send quotations. “We have made some purchases under the emergency fund. However, our appeal is not gaining the desired response from local vendors,” a top official at SGH has said.

Considering the increasing burden of asthma patients that requires appropriate medication, hospital authorities have sent requests to the state directorate of medical education (DMER) to make rate contracts for these medicines so that a specific allotment is made for the drug purchase. Annually Rs 7 crore is allotted for procuring and stocking some 450-480 commonly prescribed medicines/drugs at the government-run hospital. While a majority of the supply is from central institutes (Haffkine Biopharmaceutical) 30 per cent funds are allocated for local purchase and rate contracts of necessary ones from other agencies.

Dr. Rahul Kendre, Consultant Lung Transplant Surgeon, DPU Private Super Speciality Hospital, said that many persons with asthma experience difficulty in breathing during monsoon season. “People prone to this condition are advised to keep an inhaler and medications with them at all times in case of emergencies. It is also important to avoid cold drinks and foods, take scheduled flu and pneumococcal vaccines as advised by your physician, and keep your surroundings clean and dry.”

According to Lung India journal, India contributes to 42 per cent of global asthma deaths. While inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) are a standard treatment, the main reason for the rise in deaths is that 90 per cent of asthmatics do not get the right medication, Dr. Sundeelp Salvi, Director of Pulmocare Research and Education (PURE) Foundation who was the lead author of the study that was published in Lung India journal in May 2022 told The Indian Express.

The study found that the country has an estimated 34.3 million asthmatics and more than 90 per cent do not receive the right medication.

In such a scenario, Sassoon General Hospital has taken a bold step to procure the inhalers.

Dr Sanjay Gaikwad, Professor and Head, Department of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine said that this is the first time the government hospital has procured asthma inhalers as per the Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) strategy for asthma management and prevention. While specific days of the week are allotted to disease-specific OPDs, persons with asthma and COPD tend to walk in on other days as well.

At Thursday’s pulmonary medicine OPD-34, as many as 85 persons were provided medical consultation; of these more than 30 had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. “Investigative tests to rule out TB are done. The elderly population find spirometry–the most common of pulmonary function tests – difficult so an impulse oscillometry test is performed to check their lung function,” Dr Gaikwad said.

The aim is to identify the level of airway obstruction and classify the patients with acute and chronic persistence of asthma and COPD.

“A separate 20-bed Respiratory Intensive Care Unit has been set up on the 9th floor of the new 11-storeyed building on the campus for critical cases. Patients who have been given the inhalers are also monitored to find if their symptoms have eased,” Dr Gaikwad added.

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