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Society assures asthma sufferers 'there is no need to order extra medicines' during pandemic

People with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are being urged not to stockpile medicines during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Asthma Society of Ireland has assured the 380,000 people who have asthma in Ireland and the 500,000 who have COPD that there is no need to order extra medicines.

The society's chief executive, Sarah O'Connor, said the organisation has been liaising closely with the Department of Health, the HSE, the Irish Pharmacy Union and pharmaceutical companies who have reassured them that there is a good stock of asthma and COPD medications in Ireland.

"There is no need to order extra medicines than you need for the coming month. This will affect the supply of medicines for others. There is no disruption to the supply of medicines – our Irish supply chains are well-stocked, established and reliable," said Ms O'Connor.

Some people with asthma and/or COPD were worried that some pharmacies were running out of medications.

"Re-stocking of pharmacies with these medications was delayed over the weekend due to people with respiratory illnesses panic-buying medications to last several months in recent weeks," said Ms O'Connor.

"We have been reassured that this minor delay was temporary and has been resolved with deliveries to pharmacies in recent days.

Although it is very important to ensure you have enough medication to comply with instructions given by your doctor, at this current critical time, we are calling on our people with respiratory illnesses to please ensure they only purchase enough medication for one month.

Panic buying resulted in others with respiratory illnesses unable to access essential medication.

"During this uncertain time, please be considerate of others," said Ms O'Connor

The HSE’s national clinical respiratory programme and the Asthma Society are advising all people with asthma and COPD to visit asthma.ie for questions about coronavirus and their condition.

HSE clinical lead of the national clinical respiratory programme, Dr Des Murphy, said they were delighted to approve the society's coronavirus page on asthma.ie as a trusted resource for people with asthma and COPD.

"It is extremely important that people with asthma and/or COPD do everything possible during the current coronavirus pandemic to ensure their condition is managed as well as possible," said Dr Murphy.

"The Asthma Society’s coronavirus page also contains some great resources for asthma and COPD management.”

The society is also warning people with asthma and/or COPD to only trust reputable sources for information or advice on their conditions

"We are also urging people to ensure any information they share themselves is from a reliable source," said Ms O'Connor.

"The spreading of misinformation on asthma/COPD management may put lives at risk and causes unnecessary fear and distress to patients and their families."

Dr Murphy said there had been a lot of false information making its way around social media advising people with asthma and COPD to avoid taking preventative steroids for their conditions.

He said: "During the past week, we noticed that a lot of people on social media were advising others to avoid taking their preventive inhaler steroids.

The HSE has advised that patients with long-term illnesses should continue taking their prescribed medications unless advised otherwise by their healthcare professional.

"It is extremely important at this time that people with asthma and/or COPD continue to take their preventative medication as advised by your healthcare professional unless he/she advises them not to do so. Failing to do so could result in an unnecessary asthma attack, which for some, prove fatal," he warned.

The Asthma Society’s Asthma and COPD Adviceline is currently experiencing an unprecedented volume of calls about the coronavirus.

Sarah O’Connor, concluded: “We are inundated with calls to our office and our free advice line service about the coronavirus. We are endeavouring to respond as quickly as possible, but there are delays. Please bear with us. We know how worried you are and we want to give you all the advice we can.”

[ul][b]Useful information[/b] [li]The HSE have developed an information pack on how to protect yourself and others from coronavirus. Read it here [/li] [li]Anyone with symptoms of coronavirus who has been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 14 days should isolate themselves from other people - this means going into a different, well-ventilated room alone, with a phone; phone their GP, or emergency department;[/li] [li]GPs Out of Hours services are not in a position to order testing for patients with normal cold and flu-like symptoms. HSELive is an information line and similarly not in a position to order testing for members of the public. The public is asked to reserve 112/999 for medical emergencies at all times.[/li] [li]ALONE has launched a national support line and additional supports for older people who have concerns or are facing difficulties relating to the outbreak of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) in Ireland. The support line will be open seven days a week, 8am-8pm, by calling 0818 222 024[/li] [/ul]