Study Demonstrates Safety & Effectiveness Of Asthma Drug

Hershey, Pa. -- The major study of mild asthma reported in the September 19 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine ends a five-year debate about appropriate use of medication for treating mild asthma.

The results show that the commonly prescribed inhalant drug, albuterol, should be used only on an as-needed basis for patients with mild asthma. Regularly scheduled use of albuterol is not risky, but neither is it necessary, according to co-investigator Clifford W. Zwillich, M. D., professor and chief of pulmonary and critical care at Penn State's Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

Puffing on the inhalant only during an attack of coughing or wheezing is sufficient for mild asthmatics, according to Zwillich. Data collection and statistical analysis for the multi-center study was designed and managed by Vernon M. Chinchilli, Ph.D., of the Center for Biostatistics and Epidemiology at Hershey.

Many of the more than 7 million Americans with mild asthma take albuterol as a regular medication. The inhalant is a beta-agonist that relaxes smooth muscles of the airways. It is sold under the brand names of Ventolin and Proventil.

The study also demonstrates that asthma patients continue to have a good response to inhaled beta-agonists, even after months of daily use, contrary to earlier reports.

Principal investigator Vernon M. Chinchilli, Ph.D., professor of biostatistics at Hershey, masterminded the design for collection, management and analysis of the data from patients at five medical centers. The work was coordinated by his team of researchers at the Asthma Clinical Research Network (ACRN) Data Coordinating Center (DCC) based at Hershey's Center for Biostatistics. ACRN is funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI).

The results of the study were reported in the article, "Comparison of Regularly Scheduled with As-Needed Use of Albuterol in Mild Asthma," in the September 19 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, a

Contact: Gail Brown
Penn State

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