Adding inhaled long-acting beta(2)-agonists to a low dose of inhaled corticosteroids (ICS), results in better clinical asthma control than increasing the dose of ICS. However, this approach may mask underlying airway inflammation. In a double-blind parallel-group study, we evaluated the effect of adding formoterol to a low dose of budesonide, compared with a higher dose of budesonide, on the composition of induced sputum. After a 4-wk run-in period of treatment with budesonide (800 microg, twice daily), 60 patients with moderate asthma were randomly assigned to a 1-yr treatment with 400 microg of budesonide plus placebo, twice daily (BUD800), or 100 microg of budesonide plus 12 microg of formoterol, twice daily (BUD200+F). All drugs were administered via Turbuhaler. Budesonide (800 microg, twice daily) during run-in significantly reduced median sputum eosinophils from 4.5 to 0.68%. No significant changes in the proportion of eosinophils, EG2(+) cells, other inflammatory cells, or ECP levels in sputum were observed over the ensuing 1-yr treatment with BUD200+F or BUD800. Clinical asthma control was not significantly different between both groups. In conclusion, no significant differences in sputum markers of airway inflammation were observed during a 1-yr treatment with a low dose of inhaled budesonide plus formoterol compared with a higher dose of budesonide.