Efficacy and safety of budesonide/formoterol single inhaler therapy versus a higher dose of budesonide in moderate to severe asthma

Curr Med Res Opin. 2004 Sep;20(9):1403-18. doi: 10.1185/030079904X2051.


Objectives: This study evaluated the efficacy and safety of a novel asthma management strategy--budesonide/formoterol for both maintenance and symptom relief (Symbicort Single Inhaler Therapy)--compared with a higher maintenance dose of budesonide in patients with moderate to severe asthma.

Methods: This was a 12-month, randomised, double-blind, parallel-group study. Symptomatic patients with asthma (n = 1890; mean age 43 years [range 11 years-80 years], mean baseline forced expiratory volume in 1 s [FEV(1)] 70% of predicted, mean inhaled corticosteroid [ICS] dose 746 microg/day) received either budesonide (160 microg, 2 inhalations twice daily) plus terbutaline 0.4 mg as needed or a daily maintenance dose of budesonide/formoterol (160/4.5 microg, 2 inhalations once daily) with additional inhalations of budesonide/formoterol 160/4.5 microg as needed. Time to first severe exacerbation (hospitalisation/emergency room [ER] treatment or systemic steroids due to asthma worsening or a fall in morning peak expiratory flow [PEF] to < or = 70% of baseline on 2 consecutive days) was the primary outcome variable.

Results: A total of 1890 patients were randomised, of whom 1563 (83%) had severe asthma. The time to first severe exacerbation was prolonged by budesonide/formoterol single inhaler therapy (p < 0.001) compared with a higher dose of budesonide. The risk of having a severe exacerbation was 39% lower with budesonide/formoterol single inhaler therapy compared with budesonide (p < 0.001). The number needed to treat to prevent one severe exacerbation per year with budesonide/formoterol compared with budesonide was 5. The budesonide/formoterol group had 45% fewer severe exacerbations requiring medical intervention per patient compared with the budesonide group (p < 0.001). Budesonide/formoterol patients had fewer hospitalisations/ER treatments (15 vs 25 events, respectively [descriptive statistics]) and fewer treatment days with systemic steroids (1776 days vs 3177 days, respectively [descriptive statistics]) compared with budesonide patients. Budesonide/formoterol single inhaler therapy patients used less as-needed medication compared with budesonide patients (0.90 vs 1.42 inhalations/day; p < 0.001). The mean daily ICS dose was lower in the budesonide/formoterol group than in the budesonide group (466 microg/day vs 640 microg/day). Over the 12-month study period, the budesonide/formoterol group achieved asthma control sufficient to not require any additional as-needed medication on 60% of days. Overall, budesonide/formoterol single inhaler therapy gave 31 more asthma control days (a night and day with no asthma symptoms and no as-needed medication use) per patient-year and 12 additional undisturbed nights per patient-year compared with a higher dose of budesonide. Both treatments were well tolerated.

Conclusion: Budesonide/formoterol single inhaler therapy has the potential to provide a complete asthma management approach with one inhaler, demonstrating a high level of efficacy in patients with moderate to severe asthma.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Adolescent
  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists / administration & dosage*
  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists / adverse effects
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Asthma / drug therapy*
  • Asthma / physiopathology
  • Bronchodilator Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Bronchodilator Agents / adverse effects
  • Budesonide / administration & dosage*
  • Budesonide / adverse effects
  • Child
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Drug Combinations
  • Ethanolamines / administration & dosage*
  • Ethanolamines / adverse effects
  • Female
  • Formoterol Fumarate
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nebulizers and Vaporizers
  • Respiratory Function Tests


  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists
  • Bronchodilator Agents
  • Drug Combinations
  • Ethanolamines
  • Budesonide
  • Formoterol Fumarate