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New asthma study

asthmaticchildA new pilot project is looking for volunteers to help pioneer a new treatment for asthma.

Asthma is a global health issue and a major public health problem in the Caribbean. In Barbados it is estimated that asthma accounts for 13 per cent of admissions to the hospital emergency room.

At the Queen Elizabeth Hospital of the 10,030 asthma cases seen at Accident & Emergency during 2000, 3.8 per cent were admitted. In 2003, there were 431 admissions for asthma attacks and 406 in 2004.

“An important cause of these admissions is people not taking their asthma medication or using their inhalers incorrectly. It has been estimated that up to 63 per cent of asthmatics who have been prescribed ‘controller medication’, do not take it.

“Sometimes we might not have our medication to hand when needed, but there are many asthmatics who are worried about the possible side effects of long term medication use,” explained Dr. Selvi Jeyaseelan, who heads the study.

In response to worries about medication side-effects, the doctor said the new pilot project was being conducted at the QEH under the guidance of Professor Timothy Roach.

“The project aims to improve or maintain good asthma control with reduced medication. People with moderate or severe asthma are being invited to try out a painless and quick treatment, called Fenzian, which is given in addition to their asthma medication.”

Fenzian is a biofeedback device that has been approved by the US Food & Drug Administration and has been used in the UK for over 12 years. It works through the skin and has been shown to reduce inflammation in many conditions, including asthma.

“The treatment is painless with no side effects. A successful pilot study in people with mild to moderate asthma has been completed by the University of the West Indies and Johns Hopkins University, and the results from this study suggest that Fenzian is acceptable and at one year follow-up, five out of the 10 participants were no longer using their asthma rescue inhalers. This new study will evaluate acceptability in those with more severe asthma and who want to reduce the amount of medication they take,” she said.

In the pilot project, volunteers will receive the Fenzian treatment three to four times a week for six weeks. Each treatment will take about 30 minutes and be carried out by a fully trained Fenzian practitioner. In addition to the treatment sessions participants will also have their medication reviewed and reduced where necessary on a weekly basis by Professor Roach.

“If the treatment is acceptable, the ultimate aim is to make ‘Fenzian’ treatment available to all Barbadians looking to improve their asthma control using the least amount of medication.”

Persons interested in taking part in the study are asked to contact Jeyaseelan at 824-4276.

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