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NHLBI researchers find long-acting beta-agonists not as effective as inhaled corticosteroids in treating persistent asthma

Researchers supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) today report findings from two studies that address an ongoing controversy about whether long-acting beta-agonists (LABs) should replace or supplement inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) in the treatment of adults with mild-to-moderate persistent asthma.

The scientists found that using LABS alone is not as effective as using ICS alone in treating adults with mild-to-moderate persistent asthma. However, when LABS are used regularly to supplement treatment with ICS, they can improve asthma control and enable substantial reductions in steroid doses.

The two studies are "Long Acting Beta-Agonist Monotherapy vs. Continued Therapy with Inhaled Corticosteroids in Patients with Persistent Asthma" and "Inhaled Corticosteroid Reduction and Elimination in Patients with Persistent Asthma Receiving Salmeterol," and they appear in the May 23, 2000 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

According to NHLBI Director Dr. Claude Lenfant, "These two studies provide new and important scientific information about treatment questions that clinicians face every day in managing adult patients with mild-to-moderate persistent asthma: can they switch patients to long-acting beta-agonists from inhaled corticosteroids or use long-acting beta-agonists to reduce steroid doses? Now we have the answer."

Asthma is a chronic lung disease that currently affects more than 15 million Americans, approximately 40 percent of whom have moderate persistent asthma. It is currently estimated to cost the U.S. economy $12.3 billion a year in health care costs and lost productivity.

Asthma is due to an inflammatory process in the bronchial air passages of the lungs that causes narrowing of the airways and, if untreated, may result in gradual loss of lung function. The NHLBI's "Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma" recommend that clinicians use daily an
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Contact: NHLBI Communications Office
sommere@nih.gov
301-496-4236
NIH/National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
21-May-2001


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