Carbon footprint and associated costs of asthma exacerbation care among UK adults

Journal of Medical Economics, 2022


Asthma exacerbations are a primary driver of costs and health impacts from asthma. Despite research suggesting that asthma care has a disproportionate carbon footprint, emissions costs are not considered when evaluating its societal burden. To advance the understanding of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with asthma, we estimated the carbon footprint and associated costs of asthma exacerbation care by severity level among UK adults.


Guidelines for asthma exacerbation treatment in UK adults were reviewed by severity level: mild, moderate, and severe/life-threatening. Components of care for each severity were evaluated for GHG emission potential and key drivers were identified. Carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions of drivers were sourced from published literature and combined to estimate the carbon footprint per exacerbation, by severity level. Emissions were scaled up to the annual UK adult population based on the annual number of exacerbations at each severity. Costs associated with emissions were estimated using the UK government's 2020 nontraded price of carbon, at ₤71 per tonne CO2e (tCO2e).


Overall, emissions drivers for exacerbations were medical services, including patient-travel, and quick-relief inhalers. The annual number of mild, moderate, and severe/life-threatening asthma exacerbations among UK adults were 118.9 M, 5.5 M, and 2.4 M. Associated annual carbon footprints were estimated to be 83,455 tCO2e, 192,709 tCO2e, and 448,037 tCO2e for mild, moderate, and severe/life-threatening exacerbations, respectively, with a total of 724,201 tCO2e. Total annual emissions costs from exacerbation care were £51.3 M; ₤5.9 M, ₤13.6 M, and ₤31.7 M for mild, moderate, and severe/life-threatening exacerbations, respectively.


GHG emissions from asthma exacerbation management were the highest for severe/life-threatening events, followed by moderate exacerbations. Treatment to reduce the severity and occurrence of exacerbations, such as effective, long-term control therapy via lower-emission dry powder inhalers (DPIs), can help mitigate asthma care emissions. For mild exacerbations, the use of DPIs can eliminate associated emissions.

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Kponee-Shovein K, Marvel J, Ishikawa R, Choubey A, Kaur H, Thokala P, Ngom K, Fakih I, Schatzki T, Signorovitch J