A brief history of inhaled asthma therapy over the last fifty years

Prim Care Respir J. 2006 Dec;15(6):326-31. doi: 10.1016/j.pcrj.2006.09.002. Epub 2006 Nov 7.


This year is the 50th anniversary of the introduction into clinical use of the first modern inhaler for the management of asthma--the pressurised metered-dose inhaler (pMDI). The pMDI was initially used for the administration of the non-selective beta-agonists adrenaline and isoprenaline. However, the epidemic of asthma deaths which occurred in the 1960s led to these drugs being superseded by the selective short-acting beta-agonist salbutamol, and the first inhaled corticosteroid (ICS) beclomethasone. At the same time, sodium cromoglycate was introduced, to be administered via the first dry-powder inhaler--the Spinhaler--but owing to its relatively weak anti-inflammatory action its use is now very limited. Over the last 10 years, the long-acting beta-agonists (LABAs) have become an important add-on therapy for the management of asthma, and they are now often used with ICS in a single ICS/LABA combination inhaler.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists / administration & dosage
  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists / history
  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents / history*
  • Asthma / drug therapy
  • Asthma / history*
  • Cromolyn Sodium / administration & dosage
  • Cromolyn Sodium / history
  • Glucocorticoids / administration & dosage
  • Glucocorticoids / history
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Nebulizers and Vaporizers / history


  • Adrenergic beta-Agonists
  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Cromolyn Sodium