Nonasthmatic chronic cough: No effect of treatment with an inhaled corticosteroid in patients without sputum eosinophilia

Can Respir J. Jul-Aug 1999;6(4):323-30. doi: 10.1155/1999/434901.


Background: Inhaled corticosteroids are effective in suppressing a chronic cough without asthma associated with sputum eosinophilia.

Objective: To investigate the inflammatory characteristics in the induced sputum of patients with a chronic cough without asthma or known cause and the effects of budesonide treatment on chronic cough in those patients.

Patients and methods: Forty-four adults (mean [minimu, maximum] age of 45 years [20,75], 28 women, 17 atopic subjects and 32 nonsmokers], with a daily bothersome cough for at least one year and who had no evidence of asthma or other known cause for the cough, were consecutively enrolled. The trial was a randomized, double-blind, controlled parallel group trial of budesonide 400 mg twice daily for two weeks versus placebo. Patients then received open administration of the same dose of budesonide for a further two weeks. Sputum was induced before and at the end of each treatment period. Cough severity was documented by a visual analogue scale.

Results: Thirty-nine (89%) patients produced mucoid sputum after induction on at least one study visit. At baseline, the majority (59%) had a mild elevation in the median proportion of neutrophils (65%). All had elevated fluid phase levels of fibrinogen (3200 mg/L) and albumin (880 mg/L), and high levels of interleukin-8 and substance P. Interleukin-8 correlated with neutrophils (rho=0.72, P<0.001), fibrinogen (rho=0.65, P<0.001), albumin (rho=0.67, P=0. 001) and eosinophil cationic protein (rho=0.60, P=0.001). Substance P correlated with albumin (rho=0.60, P=0.006). No subject had an increase in eosinophils. Treatment with budesonide did not affect cough or sputum measurements.

Conclusions: Patients with nonasthmatic chronic cough enrolled in this study had evidence of a mild neutrophilia and/or microvascular leakage. Chronic cough did not respond to treatment with budesonide, perhaps because the cause was not associated with sputum eosinophilia.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Budesonide / therapeutic use*
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cough / drug therapy*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pulmonary Eosinophilia
  • Sputum / cytology*


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Budesonide