Background: The introduction of leukotriene modifiers, the first novel class of medications for asthma in more than 2 decades, provided an opportunity to evaluate the clinical context in which patients receive new treatments. Because milder asthma is usually controllable with more familiar medications, we hypothesized that adults with asthma would receive leukotriene modifiers for more severe disease.
Methods: We conducted a prospective, longitudinal, 18-month cohort study of 349 patients with asthma. We evaluated the association of baseline self-reported medication use and measures of asthma severity. We also examined the impact of baseline measurement of asthma severity on incident leukotriene modifier use at follow-up.
Results: At baseline, 39 (11%) of 349 patients reported leukotriene modifier use during the previous 2 weeks (95% confidence interval [CI], 8%-15%). Adults with asthma who reported recent use of leukotriene modifiers were more likely to indicate use of other long-term controller medications for asthma, such as inhaled corticosteroids (80% vs 57%;P =.007). Leukotriene modifier use was also associated with poorer severity-of-asthma scores (mean score difference, 3.6 points; 95% CI, 1.7-5.2 points) and asthma-specific health-related quality of life (mean score difference, 8.1 points; 95% CI, 3.4-12.8 points). Leukotriene modifier users were also more likely to indicate a recent emergency department visit (odds ratio [OR], 2.3; 95% CI, 0.9-5.6) or hospitalization for asthma (OR, 4.1; 95% CI, 1.4-11.4). Greater baseline asthma severity was associated with an increased probability of new-onset leukotriene modifier use during 18-month follow-up. Poorer baseline severity-of-asthma scores and asthma-specific quality-of-life scores were related to a greater likelihood of leukotriene modifier use at follow-up (OR per SD-sized score increment, 2.0; 95% CI, 1.4-2.7; OR, 1.8; 95% CI, 1.3-2.5; respectively). Recent hospitalization for asthma at baseline was also associated with a greater likelihood of leukotriene modifier use at follow-up (OR, 4.9; 95% CI, 1.6-14.8).
Conclusions: Adults with asthma who receive leukotriene modifiers have more severe asthma.