GSK Launches ‘ASTHMAlaya Ka Ba Talaga?’ Campaign to Help 11 Million Asthmatic Filipinos to Control the Disease

Did you know that approximately 11 million Filipinos are suffering from asthma? And did you know that despite the fact that this disease can be controlled, 98% of all Filipino asthmatics continue to lack proper treatment?


In time for World Asthma Day, GSK launched the “ASTHMAlaya Ka Ba Talaga?” advocacy campaign on Monday, May 2, 2016 at the Makati Shangri-la to raise awareness about the disease and to encourage asthma patients, to be more proactive in consulting their doctors on how they can achieve asthma control.

What is Asthma?

The Philippine College of Chest Physicians (PCCP) defines asthma as a heterogenous disease usually characterized by chronic airway inflammation. It is defined by the history of respiratory symptoms such as wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and cough that vary over time and intensity, together with variable expiratory airflow limitation.

“Asthma is a recurring inflammatory disorder in the airways of breathing, which undergoes variable expiratory flow and reversible bronchoconstrictions. In people with asthma, the airways are chronically inflamed. Certain triggers can make the inflammation worse and cause a narrowing of the airways”, shares Dr. Melvin Pasay, a pulmonologist and Medical Affairs Manager of GSK.

Asthmalaya Panel

Asthma Triggers

While the cause of asthma is still unknown and it isn’t clear why some people get asthma and others don’t, exposure to various irritants and substances that trigger allergies (allergens) can trigger asthma such as:

  • Airborne allergens, such as mold, pollen, animal dander, cockroaches and dust mites
  • Respiratory infections, such as the common cold and other viral diseases
  • Physical activity (exercise-induced asthma) and stress
  • Cold air
  • Air pollutants and irritants, such as smoke
  • Certain medications like aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen
  • Sulfites and preservatives added to some types of foods and beverages, including shrimp, dried fruit, processed potatoes, beer and wine
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or hyperacidity

Common Asthma Myths that Need to be Corrected

  1. Eating Geckos (“Tuko”) can cure asthma – FALSE!
  2. Asthma medicine is only needed to stop an attack – that depends. People who have mild, moderate and severe persistent asthma need a daily long term controller medicine, usually an inhaled corticosteroid, to control inflammation and minimize asthma attack.
  3. People can outgrow asthma – Asthma is a chronic, treatable condition that develops in childhood. It’s no longer considered a disease that children “outgrow,” however, symptoms may improve during adolescence and adulthood.  When asthma is diagnosed for the first time in an adult, it’s likely that the condition is present, but mild and undetected earlier.
  4. Asthma is easy to control – This often depends on how well you follow your asthma treatment plan- the condition can be difficult to manage. Goals of treatment include preventing chronic symptoms and asthma flares, maintaining normal lung function and activity levels, and avoiding serious or long term medication side effects.
  5. Allergies have nothing to do with asthma –  Inflamed airways in people who have asthma are more sensitive to allergens and allergens are common asthma triggers. According to recent studies, more than 50% of asthma cases in the USA are linked to allergies.  Common allergens include cats, pollen, mold and dust mites.
  6. People with asthma shouldn’t exercise – FALSE! Regular exercise can improve lung function and help maintain a healthy weight- reducing asthma risk and help breath easier. Talk to a pulmonary doctor or asthma specialist before beginning an exercise program.  It’s the only trigger that should not be avoided (note of exercise induced asthma in some patients).
  7. People with asthma can’t get the flu shot – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a yearly flu vaccine for people who have asthma. Flu can trigger an asthma attack.
  8. Moving to a dry climate can cure asthma – A change in environment can temporarily improve asthma symptoms, but it won’t cure the disease. To reduce asthma triggers at home: have your air conditioner unit cleaned every year and change the filter as needed, keep your windows closed during pollen season, and use a dehumidifier if living in a damp climate.
  9. Asthma Medicines are habit forming – Medications used to treat asthma are not addictive; however, because asthma is a chronic disease, long term use of medicine is often needed to manage the condition and prevent an attack. It’s important to follow your doctor’s recommendation for treatment, even when symptoms are well controlled.
  10. Asthma is a psychological condition – Asthma causes the lungs and the immune system to overreact to certain triggers. Asthma is a disease of inflammation of the lungs, although stress and emotions can sometimes exacerbate asthma symptoms, related to fast and heavy breathing.
  11. Steroids used to treat asthma are the same as the steroids used by athletes to get bigger and stronger – FALSE! The steroids used by athletes are testosterone, growth hormone and androstenedione. The steroid used in asthma are glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid derivatives.
  12. When I feel fine and have no symptoms it’s because the asthma has gone away – You still have asthma even when you feel fine and have no symptoms. Your asthma can be partially or well controlled depending on frequency and timing of symptoms, use of medications and impact on everyday quality of life.
  13. Nebulizers are the best way to give asthma medicines to babies and children – Medicines given by metered dose inhaler with spacer with face mask is just as effective.
  14. Dietary Supplements can help ease asthma symptoms – There is no proof that specific nutrients help treat asthma (according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health).  A variety of herbs and supplements have been studied, but none have been found to improve asthma.

Burden of Having Asthma

In the Asia Pacific, including the Philippines, a study showed that activity limitation caused by asthma has been quite prevalent. A mean of 44.7% of respondents reported that normal physical activity was compromised, and 37.9% believed that their choice of job or career was limited. A total of 52.7% of respondents said that sports and recreation were affected, and 37.6% believed their lifestyle was restricted while almost 50% reported sleep disturbances.³

“A lot of asthma patients have resigned and became ‘prisoners’ to their condition. Many seem to have created imaginary cages and locking themselves up with lifestyle restrictions. They are assuming that frequent symptoms, exacerbations and lifestyle limitations are inevitable consequences of having asthma – unaware that their condition can be controlled,” observes Dr. Pasay.

Asthma Has No Cure But It Is Controllable and Treatable

The cause of asthma is unknown. However as shared by Philippine Society of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Inc. (PSAAI) President, Dr. Carmela Kasala, several predisposing factors to consider include genetic history (personal history or first degree relative) with asthma, allergic rhinitis, eczema; weight and smoking history.

“While there is also no known cure for asthma, this serious chronic disease can be controlled and effectively treated. By establishing a strong partnership between a patient and his doctor, results showed that asthma can be controlled” shares Dr. Kasala.

What is alarming is that 98 percent of Filipino asthma patients (11 million) remain uncontrolled or only partly controlled.

“This means that asthma patients will only use medication when they have attacks believing that as long as there are no attacks they will be okay. As such, they believe that it is enough that they have available medicines to be taken on an as-needed basis,” shares Dr. Sylvia Yang, World Asthma Day committee chair of Philippine College of Chest Physicians (PCCP).

Regular visits and consultations with doctors likewise became less as children grew up and had lesser asthma attacks. Most are relying on peers, family and even online resources to provide limited information and possibly, sub-optimal treatment for their condition.  This makes patients underestimate their condition leading to poor asthma control.

Cost of treatment is also a main consideration for compliance, but the truth is uncontrolled asthma can lead to higher odds of hospitalization and emergency room visits and become more expensive due to direct medical cost  like hospitalization or medications and indirect cost like time lost from work, overall productivity or even premature death.

ASTHMAlaya Ka Ba Talaga? Campaign

In celebration of World Asthma Day, an annual event organized by the “Global Initiative for Asthma” (GINA) to improve asthma awareness and care around the world, GSK Philippines launches “ASTHMAlaya Ka Ba Talaga? campaign, a disease awareness initiative that also seeks to encourage asthma patients, to be more proactive in consulting their doctors on how they can achieve asthma control.

So how do you know if you need asthma control? It’s easy, if you are an asthma patient who experiences daytime asthma symptoms (coughing or wheezing) more than twice a week, wakes up at night due to asthma, uses an asthma reliever more than twice a week or have any activity limitations due to asthma, you may have uncontrolled asthma and need to immediately consult your doctor.

Doctors sign a pledge

Doctors sign a pledge

The celebration was participated by advocates from Philippine College of Chest Physicians (PCCP) and the Philippine Society of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Inc. (PSAAI) who are one with the advocacy of furthering awareness and urgency among patients to consult their doctors for proper asthma control.


Win Against Asthma

If you are one of the 11 million Filipinos suffering from asthma, keep in mind that you can win against the disease. You can take a pledge and commit to check yourself for symptoms of lack of control and consult your doctor right away. Remember, 98% of Filipino asthmatics are not aware about this that’s why the disease is controlling their lives instead of them controlling the disease. If you don’t have asthma, you can also support this advocacy by committing to spread awareness about the disease.


As Dr. Pasay profoundly put it, “Our message is clear. You don’t have to serve a life sentence of limitations because of Asthma, be in control and be ASTHMALAYA!”

For more updates about this campaign, visit, or for more in-depth information, you can check out GSK’s website at


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.