Popular asthma drug inadequate when used alone, new study shows

A drug widely prescribed as the sole treatment for asthma has been found to be incapable by itself of preventing asthma attacks or controlling the airway inflammation thought to lead to deteriorated lung function and gradual worsening of asthma.

While the popular drug, known as a long-acting beta agonist, provides effective and satisfying relief of asthma symptoms, it does not attack the inflammation nearly always present in the airways of people with asthma, the study found.

"Most asthma experts have concluded that long-acting beta agonists alone do not provide enough protection," said Stephen Lazarus, MD, professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco and leader of the national study. "This is the first clear-cut clinical study confirming this impression."

"People with mild to moderate persistent asthma - and that is about 75 percent of asthma patients - need medication that addresses the underlying inflammation if they are to keep their asthma under control."

The research is published in the current (May 23) issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

The federally funded study of people with mild to moderate asthma compared patients' progress on either a long-acting beta agonist or an inhaled corticosteroid.Researchers found that most patients were satisfied with how well the beta agonist controlled their symptoms, but the study showed that they suffered more asthma attacks and had more airway inflammation than did patients using the inhaled corticosteroid.

The 28-week study of 164 asthma patients was carried out at the six university hospitals across the country that make up the Asthma Clinical Research Network funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the NIH.

Patients with mild to moderate asthma - symptoms more than three times a week - were treated for six weeks with the inhaled corticosteroid triamcinolone to control their asthma an

Contact: Wallace Ravven
University of California - San Francisco

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