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Drug Wars: An Epic Tale of Asthma and Bacterial Pneumonia


Janet A. De Souza-Hart
School of Arts & Sciences
MCPHS University


This case study is based on real events that the author experienced with her 10-year-old daughter. Although the names have been changed, all of the events (symptoms, diagnoses, treatments, types of healthcare professionals) are recorded exactly as they occurred. Both asthma and pneumonia are common in the United States (and globally). Many of the drugs described in the case study are frequently prescribed for a wide variety of ailments. The four “episodes” that constitute the case cover (1) a study of asthma triggers, incidence, and treatment; (2) side effects and possible medication errors associated with steroids; (3) causes, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of community-acquired bacterial pneumonia; and (4) the mechanism of action of two different antibiotics. The “epilogue” explores a few larger themes related to healthcare and public health (e.g., continuity of care, drug resistance, asthma prevention programs). The case could be used in an undergraduate, upper-level infectious disease, microbiology, public health, or physiology course or in a graduate-level health professions program.


  • Describe the impact (e.g., morbidity, mortality, economic) of asthma on both the individual and population.
  • Describe the various triggers and some of the prevention methods (pharmacological and non-pharmacological) for asthma.
  • Analyze and compare the uses and potential side effects of medications used in the treatment of asthma.
  • Know the common bacterial causes of community acquired pneumonia and compare the relative virulence of some of the major pathogens that cause pneumonia.
  • Describe methods for both the prevention and treatment of pneumonia based on the causative bacterial pathogen.
  • Understand some of the complexities that health care providers face when caring for patients as well as some of the challenges that patients can face related to continuity of care.
  • Utilize and summarize reliable sources of information in the scientific literature and on the Internet.


Asthma; antibiotics; bacteria; albuterol; fluticasone; prednisone; amoxicillin; azithromycin; drug resistance; side effects; vaccines; probiotics; continuity of care; steroids; walking pneumonia; Streptococcus pneumonia; community acquired pneumonia

Topical Areas


Educational Level

Undergraduate upper division, Graduate, Professional (degree program)



Type / Methods

Clicker, Directed



Subject Headings

Physiology  |   Medicine (General)  |   Pharmacy / Pharmacology  |   Public Health  |   Microbiology  |  

Date Posted


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