The study also found that 82% of the surveyed physicians reported not getting labs to help determine treatment options for their patients.
A new study indicates that approximately 42% of the primary care physicians (PCPs) who were surveyed were unfamiliar with biologics to treat asthma. Biologics for asthma, which were introduced as a treatment approximately 20 years ago, have demonstrated efficacy in helping patients control their symptoms.
Further, the study indicates that PCPs were unaware of the criteria for starting them, often waiting until patients report experiencing 2 or more exacerbations in a year before referring them to a specialist. This also included delayed time when ordering lab work for patients.
“We know that many people who suffer from asthma are regularly seen by PCPs, and we wanted to know if PCPs were familiar with biologics to treat asthma,” said lead study author Bijalben Patel, MD, in a press release. “We also wanted to explore at what point PCPs were referring asthma patients with uncontrolled symptoms to asthma specialists, and whether they were aware of eligibility requirements for a patient to start biologic treatment.”
The survey, which was sent to primary care, attending, and resident physicians, was sent through email to the departments of International Medicine, Family Medicine, and Pediatrics. A total of 85 PCPs were surveyed, of which 77% had referred patients to specialists after 2 or more exacerbations per year, and 42% were unfamiliar with biologics. In addition, 82% reported not getting labs and 90% reported not using absolute eosinophil count—tests for levels of a certain type of white blood cell that is active in allergic conditions—to guide asthma management.
The investigators also determined that the frequency of PCP referrals to a specialist did not change familiarity with biologics or eligibility criteria. Further, PCPs who had seen patients with asthma more frequently and those who referred patients to specialists were more likely to recommend their patients receive lab work to manage their asthma.
“The results of the survey point to the need to improve the communication between primary care physicians and asthma care specialists, including regarding use of biologics,” senior study author Juan Carlos Cardet, MD, MPH, allergist and ACAAI, said in the press release. “Biologics have become an important tool in the treatment of asthma and other allergic diseases such as atopic dermatitis (eczema), chronic rhinosinusitis with nasal polyps and eosinophilic esophagitis, and can prevent substantial ill results from occurring in patients who are eligible for them.”
ACAAI. Survey reveals 42% of primary care physicians are unfamiliar with biologics to treat asthma. News release. November 9, 2023. Accessed November 13, 2023. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/1005842