The Health Secretary, Stephen Dorrell, has announced a five-year, 5 million (UK pound) research programme to identify the cause of asthma. "There is no cure for asthma," says a spokesman for the National Asthma Campaign. "One thing is certain: the outlook for asthma research has never looked so good."
Yes, asthma research is doing well - it has a rosy future. But, sadly, asthmatics do not. Once, asthma scarcely existed; now treating it is a lucrative with more and more sufferers dependent on expensive drugs.
God preserve asthmatics from the pharmaceutical industry.
When it was announced recently that Third World countries had fewer asthmatics than developed countries, the irony was missed by experts who said that it was modern life was too clean. Other specialists say asthma is caused by pollution. The truth is western doctors haven't got a clue.
In Soviet Russia, which was spared the grip of the pharmaceutical lobby, Professor Konstantin Buteyko devised a system of breathing exercises which combat asthma and hay fever effectively.
The basis of Buteyko is that we need carbon dioxide in our lungs to process oxygen into the bloodstream.This is a physiological fact, not mumbo-jumbo. Carbon dioxide is known to be connected with the function of the nervous system. When asthmatics become tight-chested, their bodies are trying to tell them to slow down, to take less oxygen and more CO2.
Now they are treated with bronchodilators which have the reverse effect, opening up the airways to allow more oxygen in and expelling CO2. Because these inhalers are addictive, they become ever more insidious..
For the pharmaceutical industry, Buteyko's method is bad news. It requires no drugs at all. GPs are happy to hear about it but they will not recommend it. And there is little incentive in the pharmaceutical industry to cure the disease.
I have had prescriptions for Becotide (2 puffs twice a day), Ventolin (for use in a crisis) and Intal (occasionally) for 17 years, and I've had 3 serious asthma attacks.
Once I was taken unconscious to hospital, where I was put on a drip and kept in for a week.
Now, after a one-week Buteyko course, I've given up all drugs. I find I'm able to fight off an asthma or hay fever attack.
My 11-year-old son Andrew, who has never had an asthma attack but often has an asthmatic cough, has been prescribed even more powerful drugs. Children are often given even more powerful drugs than adults because they can't be relied on to use inhalers accurately.
Yet the NAC says it cannot recommend Buteyko because "it has not undergone properly controlled clinical trials which have been published in a reputable medical journal". It is this attitude which causes this epidemic.