About 24 million Americans have asthma. More than 3,400 people die from it every year.
A minority of asthma sufferers has severe asthma that sends them to emergency rooms. Asthma treatment costs more than $10 billion a year, of which more than one- half is spent on severe asthmatics. They make up only 10 percent of the asthma population.
Researchers report there is a new treatment that is lifesaving in severe cases. It is called bronchial thermoplasty. It was approved in 2000. About 650 cases have had the procedure.
It works. Many patients are able to stop using inhalers and go off all medications. Patients who use it saw their emergency room visits drop by 84 percent. The number of days lost from work and school dropped by 66 percent.
The problem is the treatment is expensive, costing about $20,000. Doctors and patients say the cost of emergency rooms and expensive medications is much greater than the cost for the procedure.
Insurance companies have been slow to pay for the procedure. However, some insurance companies now agree that the procedure saves money. Experts are saying more companies will come around.
For many patients it is a new lease on life. One said, “Now I can breathe and I’m saving my insurance company a fortune.”