Prevalence and burden of difficult-to-treat and severe asthma in Australia: a national population survey

Sharon R. Davis, Rosario D. Ampon, Leanne M. Poulos, Taehoon Lee, Guy B. Marks, Brett G. Toelle, Helen K. Reddel*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Background and Objective: Most evidence about difficult-to-treat and severe asthma (DTTA) comes from clinical trials and registries. We aimed to identify people with DTTA from a large nationally representative asthma population and describe their characteristics and healthcare utilization compared with people whose asthma was not ‘difficult-to-treat’. Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional survey of Australians aged ≥18 years with current asthma from large web-based survey panels. Enrolment was stratified by gender, age-group and state/territory based on national population data for people with asthma. Difficult-to-treat or severe asthma was defined by poor symptom control, exacerbations and/or oral corticosteroid/biologic use despite medium/high-dose inhaled therapy. Outcomes included exacerbations, healthcare utilization, multimorbidity, quality of life and coronavirus disease of 2019 (COVID-19)-related behaviour. Weighted data were analysed using SAS version 9.4. Results: The survey was conducted in February–March 2021. The weighted sample comprised 6048 adults with current asthma (average age 47.3 ± SD 18.1 years, 59.9% female), with 1313 (21.7%) satisfying ≥1 DTTA criteria. Of these, 50.4% had very poorly controlled symptoms (Asthma Control Test ≤15), 36.2% were current smokers, and 85.4% had ≥1 additional chronic condition, most commonly anxiety/depression. More than twice as many participants with DTTA versus non-DTTA had ≥1 urgent general practitioner (GP) visit (61.4% vs. 27.5%, OR 4.8 [4.2–5.5, p < 0.0001]), or ≥1 emergency room visit (41.9% vs. 17.9%, OR 3.8 [3.3–4.4, p < 0.0001]) in the previous 12 months. Conclusion: Our findings emphasize the burden of uncontrolled symptoms, current smoking, multimorbidity and healthcare utilization in people with DTTA in the community, who may be under-represented in registries or clinical trials.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
Early online date6 May 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 May 2024


  • asthma
  • COVID-19
  • cross-sectional studies
  • emergency service
  • hospital
  • multimorbidity
  • prevalence
  • severe asthma


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