Regional variation in prevalence of difficult-to-treat asthma and oral corticosteroid use for patients in Australia: heat map analysis

Peter A.B. Wark, Mark Hew, Yang Xu, Clare Ghisla, Tra My Nguyen, Bora Erdemli, Aditya Samant, Cassandra Nan

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Background: In Australia, the regional prevalence of difficult-to-treat asthma is unknown. We aimed to describe regional variation in difficult-to-treat asthma prevalence and oral corticosteroid (OCS) use. Methods: In this retrospective, observational, longitudinal study using data from March 2018–February 2019 in the NostraData longitudinal database, prescriptions dispensed for obstructive airway disease were processed through a high-level algorithm to identify patients with asthma. Difficult-to-treat asthma was defined by ≥2 high-dosage inhaled corticosteroids plus long-acting beta-agonist prescriptions over 6 months. Patients who additionally received OCS prescriptions sufficient to treat ≥2 exacerbations over 6 months were classified as having uncontrolled difficult-to-treat asthma. Patient-level data were analyzed across 340 geographic areas in Australia to determine regional prevalence of difficult-to-treat asthma, uncontrolled difficult-to-treat asthma, and OCS use. Results: Of 1 851 129 people defined as having asthma, 440 800 (24%) were classified as having difficult-to-treat disease. Of those difficult-to-treat asthma patients, 96 338 (22%) were considered to have uncontrolled disease. Between 29% and 48% of patients had difficult-to-treat asthma in 49 geographic areas, most frequently located in Western Australia. Between 26% and 67% of patients had uncontrolled difficult-to-treat asthma in 29 geographic areas (mostly in Eastern Australia). Overall, a wide variability of asthma severity and control was observed among regions. Conclusions: Despite global and national guidelines, regional differences in the prevalence of difficult-to-treat asthma and uncontrolled difficult-to-treat asthma and OCS use exist in Australia. Understanding these regional variations should inform policy and target management in the areas with the greatest unmet need.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Asthma
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2022


  • difficult-to-treat asthma
  • epidemiology
  • Oral corticosteroids
  • uncontrolled asthma

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