May 6, 2011

Asthma Pill Could be Better than Inhaler

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- A new study shows a rarely-prescribed drug is easier to use and may be just as effective as treatment with inhalers.

Asthma affects about 300 million people worldwide. It is a chronic condition characterized by inflammation of the airways that leads to wheezing, coughing, chest tightness and shortness of breath.

Researchers followed 650 patients with chronic asthma for two years. They found leukotriene receptor antagonists (LTRAs) were just as successful at managing the disease as steroid inhalers and other "preventer" inhalers when used in addition to steroid inhalers.

LTRAs are often sold under the brand names Singulair and Accolate. In the past, these medicines were considered less effective than inhalers, and as a result, they were prescribed less frequently. However, this study suggests that the drugs could be an alternative to steroid inhalers and other preventer inhalers when used in addition to steroid inhalers. More than 80 percent of patients report problems using their inhalers, are not able to use them because of side effects, or do not want to take steroids.

"We hope these findings will increase the options for healthcare professionals when prescribing for this common but disruptive disease," lead author, Prof David Price, of the University of Aberdeen and UEA, was quoted as saying. "We found that adherence to treatment was vastly improved -- by as much as 60 percent -- when patients were given the once-a-day LTRA tablets, and patients did not have to worry about using appropriate inhaler technique."

SOURCE: The New England Journal of Medicine, May 2011