Asthma kills at least three people a day and costs the UK health service at least £1.1 billion a year, according to findings from what researchers are calling the most comprehensive study of the condition in the country to date.
The UK-wide team, led by the Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research at The University of Edinburgh, looked at information from national health surveys and anonymised administrative, health and social care records to help construct an accurate picture of the burden of the condition.
The findings, published in the journal BMC Medicine, reveal that there were around 6.4 million GP and nurse consultations for asthma each year, and that more 270 people are admitted to hospital every day because of asthma attacks.
The research also revealed that at least £666 million is spent on asthma-related prescription each year, while £160 million goes on GP consultations, £143 million on disability claims and £137 million on hospital care.
However, the team also noted that the figures are likely to be "substantial underestimates" given that people for whom asthma was not their main illness were not included in the research.
"Even with conservative assumptions, we find almost 100,000 people are admitted to hospital and there are at least 1000 deaths from asthma each year in the UK," said Professor Aziz Sheikh, director of the Centre.
"This is unacceptable for a condition that, for most people, can be managed effectively with the right support from their GP," he stressed, and called for a greater focus on primary care to cut rates of related attacks, hospitalisations and deaths.
The researchers note that, given the vast amount of money streamed into preventative treatments for asthma, "particular focus is warranted on primary care to assess whether the most effective and cost-effective treatment strategies are consistently being employed, and on the development of innovative strategies for the prevention and early detection of asthma attacks".