Could new research be key to ending blight of asthma in Ireland?

By Joyce Rubotham   @seoighee

Researchers have a made a potential breakthrough in asthma research which may lead to new and improved treatments for Irish sufferers.

Asthma is closely linked to and often triggered by allergies. Yet many people who have the same allergies for example to dust or pollen do not develop asthma.

Scientists have discovered the gene they believe causes some people to be asthmatic. A gene called ADAM 33 has been identified as the main player in changing the airways of patients and making them asthmatic.

Ireland has the fourth highest prevalence of asthma in the world. But the cost of medication in the Republic is far higher than in other European countries. Many Irish sufferers travel to Northern Ireland to buy the exact same medicines at lower prices.

The eloquently presented research by Southampton University clearly demonstrates that this gene has a much lower expression in people who do not have asthma. When the gene ADAM 33 was added to cells in the laboratory it induced asthma-like changes.


The really good news is that supressing ADAM 33 resulted in airways returning to normal illustrating that any damage done was reversible.

Since people with asthma have increased levels of ADAM 33 in their airways it represents a new potential target for drug treatments.

With one in five Irish children diagnosed as being asthmatic, parents will be watching to see if this new research will bring about more treatment options.

Apart from the worry and strain of caring for a sick child and administrating long-term medication, parents have the extra burden of financing treatments. Even a diagnosis of mild asthma can be a costly one.


A month’s supply of Singulair, a common medication prescribed for the treatment of childhood asthma can cost up to €30. Added to that cost is the price of the multiple inhalers used daily by many asthmatic children. Keeping one child’s asthma under control often costs over €40 a month in medications.

With such high prices the risk of patients rationing their medications at the cost of their health is significant. Poorly controlled asthma costs the state more in the long term as patients risk becoming ill and needing hospitalisation. The high costs of medication to control chronic illness like asthma benefits no one.

The Asthma Society of Ireland appears to recognise the prohibitively high cost of asthma medicines in Ireland.  In 2013 the Society made a pre Budget submission to Government calling for free health services for asthma sufferers.

Asthma medication prices however are still high. It remains to be seen how the new breakthrough in understanding asthma will benefit patients.

Read the scientific paper at

Joyce Rubotham is a former molecular biologist, a full-time mother and writer for





2 thoughts on “Could new research be key to ending blight of asthma in Ireland?

  • July 26, 2016 at 4:33 pm

    Very interesting results, hopefully they will lead to therapeutic improvements for the many asthma sufferers in Ireland.

  • July 26, 2016 at 9:48 pm

    Great article well done!! I ifter hear of expensive medications & nobody emotions asthma.…I totally agree as a parent if 2 children that suffered the cost monthly was huge & one that is not even recognised by the government in Ireland! Also I agree it’s not alone the cost but also the stress & upset seeing your child take an asthma attack or going on a nebulizer frequently. Hopefully these results will lead to development of ending both the emotional & financial cost to all our families Well done Joyce


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