Only using an asthma inhaler when having an attack is 'just as effective' as daily dose
For two decades, mild asthma sufferers have been told to take a daily dose of inhaled steroid medicineScientists now think this treatment is no better than just inhaling when they symptoms occur
11:58 GMT, 14 September 2012
Asthmatics who use their inhalers as part of a daily routine fare no better than those who use them only when they have an attack, research suggests.
For two decades, sufferers with the milder form of the disease have been advised to take a daily dose of inhaled steroid medicine to keep inflammation down – although most ignore the regime.
And new findings published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggest that this treatment is no better than just inhaling when they have symptoms.
Breath of fresh air: Using an inhaler just when symptoms occur is 'just as effective' as daily use
A new approach could be effective and far less expensive – potentially saving $2 billion a year, researchers from the University of California San Francisco say
Professor Home Boushey said: 'Daily treatment with an inhaled corticosteroid has long been believed to be the best treatment for mild persistent asthma, but it is not followed by the majority of patients.
'People don’t seem to like taking this type of treatment every day – just a third of the inhaler prescriptions are renewed even once.
'So we wondered what would happen if people with mild asthma already well controlled by daily treatment with an inhaled corticosteroid instead took a puff only when they used their rescue medication – usually albuterol – for relief of symptoms.'
His team studied 342 adults with mild to moderate asthma over three years in ten medical centres across America
They found that patients who took inhaled corticosteroid only when they had symptoms wound up using half as much of the medication but did not have more severe symptoms.
'People don’t seem to like using their inhalers daily. Just a third of the inhaler prescriptions are renewed even once'
Nor did they miss more days of work or school, or have more flare-ups.
Prof Boushey said: 'The goal of our study was to compare different approaches to adjusting inhaled corticosteroid treatment on the frequency and severity of asthma attacks and on quality of life.
'This is not a treatment breakthrough but it may possibly open the door to a new approach to treatment, and it will certainly be considered by the expert panel for the NIH’s guidelines for asthma treatment.
'This approach allows personalisation of treatment and is easy for patients. Also, it could hypothetically result in saving $2 billion a year in medication costs.'
Professor William Calhoun said: 'This is a step forward in asthma management.
'It enables patients to use their steroids only when they have symptoms. It is “temporal personalization,” adjusting medication on a day to day basis.'