How pharmacists can make sure people with asthma get the most from their inhalers

Recent research has shown that almost half of people with asthma are not using their inhaler properly[1]
. Not only does this mean that they could be susceptible to side effects, such as oral thrush, but, more importantly, the medicine will not get into the lungs where it is needed to prevent asthma attacks.

There are many common mistakes that people can make when using an inhaler, including breathing in too forcefully or not forcefully enough, not breathing in deeply enough, or not preparing their inhaler properly before use (such as by shaking the device).

Community pharmacists are in a unique position to help people with asthma as they are likely to see them more regularly than the patients’ GP or asthma nurse. But there are challenges. Research shows that nine out of ten healthcare professionals do not know how to demonstrate the correct use of an inhaler[2]
. With so many different asthma inhalers, all used in different ways, how can we know how to use them all, and demonstrate them properly to the people we support?

Asthma UK has provided a solution — 21 new instructional videos showing how to use many different types of inhalers, spacers and nasal sprays. The videos have been endorsed by the UK Inhaler Group, a not-for-profit coalition of organisations and individuals from highly respected bodies, ensuring that the information is accurate and of the highest standard.

Pharmacists can direct people with asthma to this up-to-date video library, which can be accessed for free online, to improve their inhaler technique. Something as simple as writing the website’s address on the back of someone’s prescription could help to prevent asthma attacks.

Pharmacists can also use the videos as a learning aid and to help them feel more confident in demonstrating and discussing good inhaler technique with people with asthma. The hope is that the videos and tips will enable healthcare professionals to help people with asthma better manage it to reduce their chance of having a potentially life-threatening asthma attack.

You can access the videos at:


Andy Whittamore, practising GP and clinical lead, Asthma UK



[1] Chrystyn H, van der Palen J, Sharma J et al. Device errors in asthma and COPD: systematic literature review and meta-analysis. NPJ Prim Care Respir Med 2017;27(1):22. doi: 10.1038/s41533-017-0016-z

[2] Baverstock M, Woodhall N & Maarman V. P94 Do healthcare professionals have sufficient knowledge of inhaler techniques in order to educate their patients effectively in their use? Thorax 2010;65:A117–A118. doi: 10.1136/thx.2010.150979.45

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, How pharmacists can make sure people with asthma get the most from their inhalers;Online:DOI:10.1211/PJ.2019.20206342

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