Indicator 5. Asthma control

Description: Proportion of people, aged 40 and under dispensed at least one inhaled short-acting beta agonist (SABA) reliever, who were dispensed SABA relievers 3 or more times, within 12 months, by age and sex.

A key focus of the recently released National Asthma Strategy is to improve outcomes for those with severe or poorly controlled asthma (NACA 2018). Australian asthma guidelines (NACA 2019), consistent with international recommendations affirm effective asthma control as the key goal of treatment (GINA 2017). As per the Australian Asthma Handbook, SABA are indicated for short-term use and are classified as relievers (NACA 2019). Relievers are used for the rapid relief of asthma symptoms when they occur.

The term ‘well-controlled asthma’ is used when symptoms are infrequent, lung function is normal or close to normal, asthma does not interfere with the person’s usual activities and there are few, if any, exacerbations. ‘Well-controlled asthma’ may indicate mild disease and/or good management, whereas ‘poorly-controlled asthma’ may indicate severe disease or poor management.

Frequent use of SABA is considered to be an indicator of poor asthma control, with dispensing of 3 or more SABA prescriptions per year indicating poor asthma control; 6 or more indicating very poor; and 12 or more indicating extremely poor asthma control (AIHW 2011). In line with guidance from the National Asthma and Other Chronic Respiratory Conditions Monitoring Advisory Group, the dispensing of these medicines 3 or more times in 12 months has been selected as the threshold for poor asthma control.

Assessing the overall level of asthma control in the population can provide insight into the effectiveness of the management of asthma in the community and the need for further efforts in improving asthma management.

The interactive visualisations on this page show data for asthma control by age and sex.


Key findings

Analysis of 2017–18 Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) data shows that, of all people aged 40 and under who were dispensed at least one inhaled SABA reliever, 13% were dispensed SABA relievers 3 or more times within 12 months. Other main findings include:

  • The rate of dispensing SABA relievers 3 or more times in 12 months was the same for males and females (13%).
  • Twenty per cent of people aged 35–40 dispensed at least one SABA reliever were dispensed SABA relievers 3 or more times in 12 months—higher than all other age groups.
  • Differences in rates of dispensing SABA relievers 3 or more times in 12 months for age and sex were present, particularly for those aged 15–19.
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ACAM (Australian Centre for Asthma Monitoring) 2011. Asthma in Australia 2011. AIHW Asthma Series no. 4. Cat. no. ACM 22. Canberra: AIHW.

GINA (Global Initiative for Asthma GINA) 2017. Global Strategy for Asthma Management & Prevention. (accessed 6 August 2018).

NACA (National Asthma Council Australia) 2019. Australian Asthma Handbook, Version 2.0. Melbourne: National Asthma Council Australia.