Asthma affects 235 million people worldwide, and an estimated 250,000 people worldwide die from asthma annually. Most of these occur in those over 45 years old which is largely preventable.
In the Philippines, about 10.7 million people have asthma, which is the most common chronic disease of childhood and is the leading cause of childhood morbidity from chronic disease as measured by school absences, emergency visits and hospitalizations. There has been a sharp increase in the global prevalence, morbidity, mortality, and economic burden associated with asthma over the last 40 years, particularly in children, and it is estimated that another 100 million people will suffer from asthma by 2025.
The cost incurred by asthma, particularly uncontrolled asthma, is substantial. Asthma was PhilHealth’s 13th most reimbursed condition in 2011 with 61,219 claims and for which Philhealth paid Php369 million. This increased to 92,981 and became the 6th most reimbursed condition in 2012, and for which Philhealth spent Php836.829 million.
Despite the availability of treatment guidelines and medicines for the treatment and management of asthma, the majority of patients with asthma remain to be uncontrolled, thus leading to compromised lives. According to the AIRAP 26 study, only 1% of children with asthma in the Philippines are well-controlled.
The good news is that, while asthma can be a serious condition, it can be controlled. Access to doctors and treatment has been shown to significantly decrease asthma deaths and hospitalizations. People with asthma can lead normal and active lives. They can even excel.
By launching the Win Against Asthma campaign this year, Glaxo-SmithKline (GSK) is taking a very big opportunity to increase awareness and amplify existing efforts to spread information about asthma and how it can be managed. GSK strongly believes and advocates that in partnership with their doctors, asthma patients can realize that their condition need not deter them from achieving their goals.
For Journey lead singer Arnel Pineda, asthma didn’t come until later. He recalls one morning in the year 2000, while cleaning their room in their old house in Kamuning, when he felt he was catching a cold. He thought it was normal until it got worse after 30 minutes. ‘Bigla na lang maga na ilong ko at merong shortness of breath,’ he shared. ‘Nagpahinga ako sandali pero after a while, ayan na naman.’
Arnel sought the advice of a doctor-friend who discovered that his larynx was inflamed due to dust. Apparently it was a case of asthma triggered by allergies. ‘Nung una nga, mahirap paniwalaan kasi malakas naman ako at hindi naman ako naninigarilyo.’ Apparently, another major trigger was inhaling second-hand smoke from the bars and venues where he would perform in Manila.
Even smoke from the vehicle while on commute worsened his condition. ‘Parang nagsisikip na yung dibdib ko, faint and shallow na yung breath ko na parang kulang yung oxygen intake.’ This went on for years and even worsened around the time he was discovered to be Journey’s lead singer in 2008. It was also around this time when doctors diagnosed his sickness as allergy-induced asthma.
Determined to break into the international entertainment scene, Arnel didn’t let his sickness take away the wonderful opportunity of raising the Filipino flag in the world of music, and took everything as a challenge. ‘After every performance, sobrang bigat ng pakiramdam ko, hindi ako makahinga at may wheezing sound dahil nga wala nang oxygen na pumapasok. Hindi naging madali nung una pero kailangan labanan,’ he explained.
Around that time, the band was scheduled to go on a tour to introduce him as the new vocalist. His doctor advised him to take care of his lungs and larynx with water therapy and medications. ‘Ang kasama ko backstage, maraming gamot.’
It’s a good thing that his band members were fully supportive of his condition. Whenever he would have an asthma attack in the middle of a show, their equally talented guitarist takes on the stage. ‘No choice, mag-a-adlib siya ng gitara para makabili ako ng oras sa treatment backstage kaya’t talagang sama-sama kami rito at all-out support din sila. At buti na lang may paraan at mga gamot na talagang nakakatulong,’ he happily said. ‘Talagang kahit ano pa man ang mangyari, tuloy ang show, all-out ang perfomance at hindi ko pwedeng payagan na ang asthma ko ang iiral.’
As a family man and dad, Arnel couldn’t help but be concerned especially with his 8-year old boy who is also suffering from asthma. He encourages his children to get into sports such as biking, running or swimming to keep them healthy, and tries to do these activities with the family. Arnel and his wife also do their best to provide their kids with healthy and nutritious food such as fruits, vegetables, fish, etc. ‘Bilang ama, responsibility ko yan para sa kapakanan nila. Parati rin ready ang medications nung panganay namin kahit nasa school kasi hindi mo masabi.’
As Arnel’s journey continues, he sees himself still performing and making his own music as he grows older. ‘While people believe in me and my talent, I’ll keep on going and offering this gift of music. Hinding-hindi na mawawala yon. Yung mga challenges, tulad ng sakit ko, I can’t let it rule dahil mahal ko ang ginagawa ko at lalong-lalo na yung mga taong napapaligaya ko.’
Arnel has been managing his asthma for a long time. He has battled the disease and dismissed his fear. Arnel strongly believes that as long as he works very closely with his doctor, he will win over asthma.