Background: Adding salmeterol to low-dose fluticasone propionate (FP) produces greater improvements in pulmonary function and symptom control than increasing the dose of FP in patients who remain symptomatic with low-dose FP.
Objective: We sought to compare the rates and characteristics of asthma exacerbations in patients after adding salmeterol to low-dose FP with the rates and characteristics of exacerbations in patients receiving higher dose FP.
Methods: In 2 multicenter, double-blind studies, 925 patients 12 years of age and older receiving 88 microg twice daily FP randomly received either 42 microg of salmeterol and 88 microg of FP or an increased dose of FP (220 microg) twice daily for 24 weeks. Exacerbation rates and clinical measures of asthma worsening were assessed for all patients who experienced an asthma exacerbation.
Results: The addition of salmeterol resulted in a significantly lower rate and number of exacerbations compared with higher dose FP. A total of 41 (8.8%) patients experienced 47 exacerbations with the addition of salmeterol compared with 63 (13.8%) patients with 75 exacerbations in the group receiving increased-dose FP (P =.017). Salmeterol plus low-dose FP was significantly more protective than increased-dose FP in preventing asthma exacerbations, as assessed by the time to first exacerbation (P <.05). In both groups clinical indicators of worsening asthma showed parallel changes before asthma exacerbation, and greater improvements were observed after exacerbation with salmeterol compared with higher dose FP.
Conclusion: Salmeterol plus low-dose FP was more effective than higher dose FP alone in reducing asthma exacerbations in patients with persistent asthma. The ability to detect deteriorating asthma and the severity of exacerbation was similar between groups.