Background: Current asthma guidelines recommend that patients are educated to adjust their medication according to their asthma severity using physician-guided self-management plans. However, many patients take a fixed dose of their controller medication and adjust their reliever medication according to asthma symptoms.
Objectives: This study examined whether asthma control improved if patients adjusted the maintenance dose of budesonide/formoterol (Symbicort Turbuhaler* 160/4.5 microg) according to asthma severity compared with traditional fixed dosing (FD) regimens.
Methods: Symptomatic patients with asthma (n = 658, mean symptom score 1.5, mean inhaled corticosteroids 735 microg/day, mean forced expiratory volume in 1 second [FEV(1)] 84% predicted) were randomised after 2 weeks' run-in to either: budesonide/formoterol adjustable maintenance dosing (AMD), budesonide/formoterol FD or salmeterol/fluticasone (Seretide Diskus dagger 50/250 microg) FD. In a 4-week double-blind period, both budesonide/formoterol AMD and FD groups received two inhalations twice daily (bid) and salmeterol/fluticasone FD patients received one inhalation bid. In the following 6-month open extension, both FD groups continued with the same treatment. Patients in the AMD group with well-controlled asthma stepped down to one inhalation bid; others continued with two inhalations bid. All AMD patients could increase to four inhalations bid for 7-14 days if symptoms worsened. All patients used terbutaline or salbutamol for symptom relief throughout. The primary variable was the odds of achieving a well-controlled asthma week (WCAW).
Results: The odds ratio for achieving a WCAW did not differ between the FD regimens; however, during the open period, budesonide/formoterol AMD increased the odds of achieving a WCAW vs. budesonide/formoterol FD (odds ratio 1.335; 95% CI: 1.001, 1.783; p = 0.049) despite a 15% reduction in average study drug use. Budesonide/formoterol AMD patients had a lower exacerbation rate over the study: 40% lower vs. salmeterol/fluticasone FD (p = 0.018); 32% lower vs. budesonide/formoterol FD (NS). During the double-blind period, there were no clinically relevant differences between the budesonide/formoterol FD and salmeterol/fluticasone FD groups. Budesonide/formoterol AMD patients used less reliever medication in the open extension: 0.58 vs. 0.92 occasions/day for budesonide/formoterol FD (p = 0.001) and 0.80 occasions/day for salmeterol/fluticasone FD (p = 0.011).
Conclusions: Adjustable maintenance dosing with budesonide/formoterol provides more effective asthma control by reducing exacerbations and reliever medication usage compared with fixed-dose salmeterol/fluticasone.