The Scottish Medicines Consortium has given its seal of approval for the use of AstraZeneca’s latest asthma product, Symbicort SMART, on the country’s National Health Service.

The news follows the product’s UK launch last week, making it the first treatment approach available to patients uncontrolled on inhaled corticosteroids that provides both maintenance and reliever therapy in a single inhaler, the company said.

With Symbicort SMART, patients take a maintenance dose of Symbicort - which contains the anti-inflammatory, inhaled corticosteroid budesonide and the rapid, long-acting bronchodilator formoterol - for control of their asthma, as well as additional hits when required for symptom relief.

Current estimates put the number of people suffering with asthma in the UK as high as 5.2 million, with 390,000 in Scotland alone - making it one of the most common chronic diseases, AstraZeneca points out. Every year, as many as 1,400 patients die in the UK from asthma, but an incredible 90% of these deaths are preventable and it is estimated that 75% of hospital admissions could be avoided, according to Asthma UK. The economic burden is substantial too, with the annual bill for treating asthma currently around £889 million, again underscoring the urgent need for more effective therapies.

Safe, effective and convenient?

In an extensive clinical trial progamme, Symbicort SMART was shown to be a safe and effective treatment for asthma, and, importantly, in a head-to-head trial (COMPASS) against GlaxoSmithKline's market heavyweight Advair (fluticasone/salmeterol) and a separate reliever therapy, AstraZeneca’s product beat its rival in reducing asthma exacerbations.

With the SMC’s recommendation, thousands of adult asthma patients aged 18 years of age and over will now have access to the medicine. “The Symbicort SMART approach is easy to use, and offers patients the convenience of achieving control of their asthma symptoms using a single inhaler. Whilst benefiting patients, it can also benefit the NHS - a reduction in both symptoms and the number of attacks patients experience has the potential to reduce emergency admissions and unscheduled hospital visits,” commented Aberdeen-based GP, Dr Iain Small.