Person sitting on a bench thinking about failed asthma treatments. An inhaler and box of medication are disintegrating and blowing away in the wind.

Crushed Dreams: When A Treatment Plan Does Not Work Out

Treatment for severe asthma has blossomed in recent years. With a menu of treatment options expanding and access to biologics becoming more common, patients are able to get more targeted treatment. I am unsure if this is providing widespread improvement in quality of life. However, those that I personally know have expressed improvements.

My latest asthma treatment was not working

I waited so long for a particular treatment to be available to me and now it was not working the same way that it had previously. While I didn’t exactly have all my eggs in one basket, I certainly thought this would return me to a state of stable asthma. I was doing fairly well with the exception of a crazy cough and some newer symptoms that have appeared. It looks like my dreams were not coming true after all. Just when I thought I was going to be on a good run, it presented new issues and I was still feeling unwell.

My doctor is still figuring out the exact causes of my current symptoms. I was shocked when they asked if I still wanted to continue with this medication. It is easy to sometimes forget that as patients we have a choice. I know that even though I feel like I have little choice at times, it is my absolute right to discontinue treatment, withdraw from a study, or even disagree with an opinion.

Considering discontinuation of asthma treatment?

Some things to consider if you are faced with these decisions:

What is your goal?

For example, is it possible to change the doses? Are you looking to treat new symptoms or adverse events? 

What are your concerns? Can your concerns be addressed?

Have you discussed these with your physician? Don’t be afraid to bring these up. I know that sometimes it can feel like you are being judged or won’t be taken seriously. It is also important to realize that your care team can not help if they don’t know there is a problem or that you have concerns.

Deciding how to move forward

I was torn on what to do. The side effects of this new treatment were not something that I wanted to keep experiencing, especially with the uncertainty that this asthma treatment may not start working. I was also breathing better, and this was key. This was part of my original goal, as I felt like I could be more physically active without symptoms. This was also on my list; however, at what cost?

I don’t have all the answers and, honestly, there is part of me that wonders if this was the best decision. But the alternative, in my case, would be a return to higher dose oral steroids which have left a devastating trail of comorbidities in their bath from brittle bones, changes to my skin, foggy brain, and feeling like I am not myself. These side effects are just too much for me to bear.

I had to keep trying this option at least for a little bit longer. I have set new goals. If I am still experiencing symptoms from this medication in a month then I have booked an appointment to discuss discontinuation or alternate symptom relief with my doctor. In the meantime, I am keeping my fingers crossed and hoping for the best.

Have you started a new asthma treatment only to find it was not working?

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