The Impact of Australian Bushfires on Asthma Medicine Prescription Dispensing

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Background: Air pollution can cause numerous health problems and increase the need for medicines to treat and prevent asthma in affected areas. There is limited evidence about the association between airborne particles with a diameter of 2.5 micrometres or smaller (PM2.5) and asthma medicine usage. This study examined the potential association between the levels of PM2.5 and the supply of prescription asthma medicines in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), Australia, during the severe bushfire season between November 2019–January 2020. Methods: Daily data was obtained from an ACT air quality monitoring station from November 2019 to January 2020 (study period) and November 2018 to January 2019 (control period, no bushfire). The number and types of government-funded asthma medicine prescriptions were obtained from the Services Australia (government) website by searching under ‘Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme Item Reports’ and using relevant item codes during the study and control periods. Results: The medians for PM2.5 levels for the study period were significantly higher than those for the control period (p < 0.001). There were increases in the number of dispensed prescriptions of short-acting beta-2 agonists (SABA), inhaled corticosteroids, and long-acting beta-2 agonists combined with inhaled corticosteroids. The greatest difference was seen with the inhaled corticosteroids: a 138% increase. Conclusions: The increase in the number of dispensed asthma prescriptions during the bushfire season should be used to inform the stock holdings of these medicines in preparation for future events to ensure access to lifesaving asthma medicines.
Original languageEnglish
Article number428
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalHealthcare (Switzerland)
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 7 Feb 2024


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