Background: Inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) affect many inflammatory pathways in asthma but have little impact on cysteinyl leukotrienes. This may partly explain persistent airway inflammation during chronic ICS treatment and failure to achieve adequate asthma control in some patients. This double blind, randomised, parallel group, non-inferiority, multicentre 16 week study compared the clinical benefits of adding montelukast to budesonide with doubling the budesonide dose in adults with asthma.
Methods: After a 1 month single blind run in period, patients inadequately controlled on inhaled budesonide (800 microg/day) were randomised to receive montelukast 10 mg + inhaled budesonide 800 microg/day (n=448) or budesonide 1600 microg/day (n=441) for 12 weeks.
Results: Both groups showed progressive improvement in several measures of asthma control compared with baseline. Mean morning peak expiratory flow (AM PEF) improved similarly in the last 10 weeks of treatment compared with baseline in both the montelukast + budesonide group and in the double dose budesonide group (33.5 v 30.1 l/min). During days 1-3 after start of treatment, the change in AM PEF from baseline was significantly greater in the montelukast + budesonide group than in the double dose budesonide group (20.1 v 9.6 l/min, p<0.001), indicating faster onset of action in the montelukast group. Both groups showed similar improvements with respect to "as needed" beta agonist use, mean daytime symptom score, nocturnal awakenings, exacerbations, asthma free days, peripheral eosinophil counts, and asthma specific quality of life. Both montelukast + budesonide and double dose budesonide were generally well tolerated.
Conclusion: The addition of montelukast to inhaled budesonide is an effective and well tolerated alternative to doubling the dose of inhaled budesonide in adult asthma patients experiencing symptoms and inadequate control on budesonide alone.