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NICE encourages use of greener asthma inhalers


new patient decision aid has been launched by NICE to help people with asthma, alongside their healthcare professionals, to choose the inhaler which best meets their needs and their symptoms.

The aid describes the different types of inhaler available and highlights how some devices, such as the metered dose inhaler, have a much higher carbon footprint than others. Where several inhalers could be viable options, patients are given the information to opt for the more environmentally friendly option, if they wish. 

However Professor Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive of NICE, stressed: “People who need to use metered dose inhalers should absolutely continue to do so – but if you have the choice of a green option, do think about the environment.”

The decision aid also encourages users to reduce waste by returning all used inhalers to local pharmacies for environmentally safe disposal, or recycling where available. It directs them to information from Recycle Now, the national recycling campaign.

The aid includes links to a new series of short videos created by Asthma UK, which give simple demonstrations of correct inhaler technique. They support NICE’s guideline on asthma, which notes that poor technique can worsen an individual’s control over their asthma.

Dr Noel Baxter, PCRS Executive Chair, said: “We welcome a decision aid that includes a focus on green issues and reducing waste as these fit with Value Based Health Care and PCRS principles.

“However focusing on the carbon footprint of different inhalers is only one aspect of the environmental argument. Opportunities for improving the environment will also come from:

  • Improving diagnosis so that people only get the medicines and devices they need.
  • Improving the education of healthcare professionals so that people are helped to make the right choices and are not harmed by unnecessary medicines.
  • Encouraging healthcare professionals to use more interventions which do not harm the environment such as physical activity prescriptions including pulmonary rehabilitation.”