Diagnosis and management of severe asthma in Switzerland: Analysis of survey results conducted with specialists and general practitioners

Jandus P , Duc M , Fay B.C.


Background: Severe asthma commonly affects 5–10% of the asthmatic population and accounts for approximately 50% of the overall asthma costs. Objective: This analysis investigated how severe asthma is diagnosed, treated, and managed by specialists and general practitioners (GPs) in Switzerland.

Methods: Two surveys, one each among specialists (N = 44) and GPs (N = 153), were conducted to understand their self-perception on diagnosis, treatment, and management of severe asthma.

Results: Fifty-five percent of the specialists felt very confident and 43% confident in recognizing the symptoms of severe asthma and diagnosing severe asthma. In contrast, 9% of the GPs were very confident and 59% confident in diagnosing severe asthma. More specific diagnostic tests for severe asthma, like total and specific immunoglobulin E levels and measurement of the fraction of exhaled nitric oxide, were run by specialists (χ2 = 171.4; df = 15, p < 0.001). GPs and specialists were using different measurements to assess severe asthma (χ2 = 385.2; df = 13, p < 0.001) and their prescribing patterns differed significantly (χ2 = 189.8; df = 10, p < 0.001). GPs referred patients with severe asthma if the diagnosis was unclear (24%), if treatment failure occurred (26%), and if the patients were at high risk (41%).

Conclusions: Oral corticosteroids (OCSs) are considered as background therapy for severe asthma by GPs and specialists. In order to reduce the OCS burden, there is a need to improve the awareness for other add-on therapies. A joint collaboration between GPs and specialists is the key to leverage therapeutic strategies together.

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