Socioeconomic biases in asthma control and specialist referral of possible severe asthma.

Although socioeconomic impact on asthma control has been investigated, little is known about its relation to specialist referral of patients with possible severe asthma, especially in a public healthcare setting. The present study aims to identify socioeconomic patterns in disease control and referral of patients with asthma in a nationwide cohort of adult patients treated with inhaled corticosteroid (ICS).Asthma patients fulfilling the following: aged 18-45 and redeeming ≥2 prescriptions of ICS during 2014-18 based on data from Danish national registers were included. Possible severe asthma was defined as GINA 2020 Step 4 (with either ≥2 courses of systemic steroids or ≥1 hospitalisation) or Step 5 treatment. Findings presented as odds ratio (OR) (95% confidence intervals).Of 60 534 patients (median age 34, 55% female), 3275 (5.7%) were deemed as having possible severe asthma, of whom 61% were managed in primary care alone.Odds of specialist management for possible severe asthma decreased with age (OR 0.66 (0.51-0.85)), 36-45 versus 18-25 years), male sex (OR 0.75 (0.64-0.87)), residence outside the Capital Region (OR 0.70 (0.59-0.82)) and with receiving unemployment or disability benefits OR 0.75 (0.59-0.95)).Having completed higher education increased odds of specialist referral (OR 1.28 (1.03-1.59)), when compared to patients with basic education.Even in settings with nationally available free access to specialist care, the majority of patients with possible severe asthma are managed in primary care. Referral of at-risk asthma patients differs across socioeconomic parameters, calling for initiatives to identify and actively refer these patients.

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Authors: Kjell Erik Julius Håkansson, Vibeke Backer, Charlotte Suppli Ulrik