Background: Oral leukotriene receptor antagonists have been shown to have efficacy in chronic asthma.
Objective: To compare the clinical benefit of montelukast, a once-daily oral leukotriene receptor antagonist; placebo; and inhaled beclomethasone.
Design: Randomized, double-blind, double-dummy, placebo-controlled, parallel-group, 12-week study.
Setting: 36 sites worldwide.
Patients: 895 patients 15 to 85 years of age with chronic asthma and an FEV1 50% to 85% of predicted.
Interventions: Montelukast, 10 mg once daily at bedtime; inhaled beclomethasone, 200 microg twice daily, administered with a spacer device; or placebo.
Measurements: Primary end points were daytime asthma symptom score and FEV1. Secondary end points were peak expiratory flow rates in the morning and evening, as-needed beta-agonist use, nocturnal awakenings, asthma-specific quality of life, and worsening asthma episodes.
Results: Over the 12-week treatment period, the average percentage change from baseline in FEV1 was 13.1% with beclomethasone, 7.4% with montelukast, and 0.7% with placebo (P < 0.001 for each active treatment compared with placebo; P < 0.01 for beclomethasone compared with montelukast). The average change from baseline in daytime symptom score was -0.62 for beclomethasone, -0.41 for montelukast, and -0.17 for placebo (P < 0.001 for each active treatment compared with placebo; P < 0.01 for beclomethasone compared with montelukast). Each agent improved peak expiratory flow rates and quality of life, reduced nocturnal awakenings and asthma attacks, increased the number of asthma-control days, and decreased the number of days with asthma exacerbations (P < 0.001 for each active treatment compared with placebo for each end point; P < 0.01 for beclomethasone compared with montelukast for each end point). Although beclomethasone had a greater mean clinical benefit than montelukast, montelukast had a faster onset of action and a greater initial effect. The two agents caused similar decreases in peripheral blood eosinophil counts (P < 0.05 for each agent compared with placebo). Both agents had tolerability profiles similar to that of placebo over the 12-week study.
Conclusions: Although beclomethasone had a larger mean effect than montelukast, both drugs provided clinical benefit to patients with chronic asthma. This finding is consistent with the use of these agents as controller medications for chronic asthma.