5.4 million people in the UK 01 and 300 million people globally - equivalent to almost the entire population of the USA - suffer from asthma. 02 Chronic respiratory diseases, including asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), kill more than four million people every year and affect hundreds of millions more. 02 The economic and societal burden is immense.
The respiratory system has several ways of protecting itself from the risks that come with constant exposure to the air, microbes and pollutants. However, these don’t always work, meaning that infections of the respiratory tract are common. They include the common cold, tonsillitis, laryngitis and flu. While sometimes serious, these infections are generally treatable at home with painkillers and plenty of rest, without the need to see your GP.
Other more serious disorders of the respiratory system are usually treated by a respiratory or lung specialist. These conditions include:
- Obstructive conditions, where the airflow to the lungs is obstructed through narrowing of the airways (including emphysema, bronchitis and asthma)
- Restrictive conditions, where the lungs are unable to expand sufficiently as tissue is gradually replaced by scar tissue. This can be caused by a range of factors, including prolonged exposure to asbestos or radiation, as a result of another disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, or due to taking certain medicines.
Patients typically use reliever and preventer inhalers to manage their asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), in devices like pressurised metered dose inhalers (MDIs), breath-activated inhalers (BA MDIs and dry powder inhalers), and inhalers with spacer devices or nebulisers.
5.4 million people in the UK are currently receiving treatment for asthma: 1.1 million children (1 in 11) and 4.3 million adults (1 in 12).01
Asthma is a common and potentially serious chronic disease that causes respiratory symptoms, reduces activity and quality of life, and causes exacerbations that can require emergency care and, in the worst case, be fatal. With proven medication, however, the disease can now be easily controlled in most patients. Treatments are both non-medicinal (allergen avoidance, smoking cessation, patient education and physical training) and medicinal therapies.
Asthma is caused by inflammation of the airways – specifically, the bronchi which are the small tubes that carry air into and out of the lungs.
The causes of asthma are not fully understood, but people with a family history of asthma, eczema or allergies are more likely to develop asthma. Certain environmental factors are thought to play a role, too, like environmental pollution.
Inflammation of the lungs leads to a narrowing of the airways, a tightening of the muscles around them, and an increased production of sticky mucus, or phlegm.
Symptoms of asthma include:
An asthma attack is usually triggered by an irritant – such as animal fur, pollen, exercise or cold air. These will vary from person to person, and an individual may have more than one trigger.
There is no cure for asthma and, rarely, people will need hospitalising if they have a particularly severe attack. Current treatments focus on either relieving the symptoms, or preventing future symptoms and attacks from occurring.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is an umbrella term for a collection of lung conditions – including bronchitis and emphysema – characterised by difficulty in breathing because of a narrowing of the airways, which restricts the flow of air to the lungs.
It is usually caused by smoking, and symptoms include:
- Productive cough (i.e. with phlegm or sputum)
- Shortness of breath and wheezing
- Chest infections
COPD is one of the most common respiratory diseases in the UK – with around three million people living with the condition. However, only about one million have formally been diagnosed,03 because people are reluctant to seek medical help, and often ignore their symptoms.
Cystic fibrosis is a genetic condition affecting more than 10,600 people in the UK. You are born with cystic fibrosis and cannot catch it later in life, but one in 25 of us carries the faulty gene that causes it, usually without knowing.04
The gene affected by cystic fibrosis controls the movement of salt and water in and out of cells. People with cystic fibrosis experience a build-up of thick sticky mucus in the lungs, digestive system and other organs, causing a wide range of challenging symptoms affecting the entire body.
The build-up of mucus in the lungs causes chronic infections, meaning that people with cystic fibrosis struggle with reduced lung function and have to spend hours doing physiotherapy and taking nebulised treatments each day.
While people with cystic fibrosis often look healthy on the outside, each individual is battling their own range of symptoms on a daily basis.
In respiratory we are focused on developing and providing treatment options that address two major issues:
- treatment adherence and compliance (in other words patient medication-taking behavior)
- treating asthma that remains uncontrolled - despite the use of a standard of care therapy.
Adherence is a major issue in the effective management of asthma and COPD. Moreover, many patients have multiple devices for different parts of their treatment (maintenance and rescue therapies). This adds to the complexity that patients face.
Improper inhaler use can result in increased exacerbation (acute attacks) of asthma or COPD requiring emergency care.
Applying expertise, innovation and technology to improve health
Our research and development teams are working on solutions to address unmet needs in respiratory medicine.
Effective asthma medication allows people to lead healthier lives but a key challenge is ensuring patients are taking their medication in the correct way. Too many patients have poor inhaler technique, which means the medicine is not properly used, meaning less effective treatment for the patient and a waste of resource for the health service.
The focus of our global research efforts in respiratory is on breath-activated inhaled therapies for asthma and COPD, where incorrect inhaler technique and non-adherence has been shown to be associated with poor asthma control, as well as targeted biologics for uncontrolled asthma.
Smart Inhaler Technology
A key area our global research teams are focusing on is E-connectivity. Using smart inhaler technology patients may be empowered to manage their condition more effectively, and healthcare professionals could get greater insight into the patient's experience and condition to make more informed treatment decisions.
We are dedicated to supporting our patients and healthcare professionals
Our work with patients, and our experience in respiratory, means we are well placed to invest in extensive research into medicines to help alleviate the many symptoms of asthma, cystic fibrosis and COPD, to offer patients and healthcare professionals a wider choice of treatments.
Let's Talk Respiratory
Teva's Let’s Talk Respiratory website is a free to access online hub of educational materials and resources, where you can find information on asthma, cystic fibrosis, and COPD, tips for managing your condition, triggers, support materials and advice on what to do when your symptoms worsen.
Life Effects™ - patient support from Teva
Your health impacts your life in so many different ways—physically, mentally, emotionally, socially and financially, to name a few. Chronic illness can turn your life upside down.
Through Teva’s Life Effects™ website you can read stories from other patients and caregivers who share their tips and real life experiences to help other patients navigate their new normal.
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Asthma UK https://www.asthma.org.uk/about/media/facts-and-statistics/ - Accessed August 2021
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World Health Organisation https://www.who.int/gard/publications/GARD_Manual/en/ - Accessed August 2021
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NICE Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in adults https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/qs10/chapter/introduction - Accessed August 2021
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Cystic Fibrosis Trust https://www.cysticfibrosis.org.uk/what-is-cystic-fibrosis - Accessed August 2021