Asthma: one hundred years of treatment and onward

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2005 Jun 1;171(11):1202-8. doi: 10.1164/rccm.200502-257OE. Epub 2005 Mar 18.


There have been four types of drug treatment of asthma that have been used over the past 100 years. Belladonna alkaloids, derived from the thorn-apple plant were used in 1905, and chemically synthesized entities in this class are still in use today. Western medicine began to use adrenergic stimulants approximately 100 years ago, but they were likely used in Asian medicine long before that. Systemic treatment with corticosteroids was introduced into the treatment of asthma in the mid-20th century; inhaled corticosteroids have been in use for over 35 years. The last 40 years have also seen the development of the first targeted asthma treatments: cromones, antileukotrienes, and anti-IgE. As we learn more of the biology of asthma, we anticipate that more effective targeted asthma treatments will be developed.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / administration & dosage
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / history
  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents / history*
  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Asthma / drug therapy*
  • Asthma / history*
  • Bronchodilator Agents / history
  • Bronchodilator Agents / therapeutic use
  • Cholinergic Antagonists / history
  • Cholinergic Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Equipment Design
  • Europe
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Nebulizers and Vaporizers / history
  • United States


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents
  • Bronchodilator Agents
  • Cholinergic Antagonists