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Sunday 01 October 2000

New therapeutic approach to persistent asthma.

By: Sanguinetti CM.

Monaldi Arch Chest Dis 2000 Oct;55(5):389-93

The goal of asthma treatment has moved from achieving symptom relief alone to overall disease control. The latest guidelines propose that first-line treatment of mild persistent asthma requires the introduction of anti-inflammatory agents, preferably inhaled corticosteroids at low dose. In patients in whom control of disease is not achieved with this treatment, it was demonstrated that addition of a long-acting beta 2-agonist is more effective than increasing the dose of inhaled corticosteroid. Addition of a long-acting beta 2-agonist to an inhaled corticosteroid not only improves symptoms and lung function but also reduces the risk of asthma exacerbations, suggesting complementary therapeutic activity. Therefore, use of long-acting bronchodilators with inhaled corticosteroids is a prerequisite for optimal management of the disease. For this reason, the logical development in asthma management would be a combination of these two classes of drug in a single inhaled formulation. Fixed combinations of the long-acting beta 2-agonist salmeterol and the inhaled corticosteroid fluticasone propionate were launched recently. Results from recent clinical trials have demonstrated that the combination of salmeterol and fluticasone propionate improves control of asthma in the majority of patients with moderate-to-severe asthma and enhances compliance by virtue of both drugs being in the one inhaler. The possibility to treat asthma of differing severity is provided by the flexibility to choose between three different doses of fluticasone propionate in the fixed combination devices. Another obvious advantage of the combination is cost savings, as the fixed combination inhaler is cheaper than giving the two drugs separately. The introduction of combination preparations is an important step forward in asthma management, which is expected to be a popular choice with both patients and physicians.

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