Background: Although guidelines recommend anti-inflammatory therapy for persistent asthma, recent studies suggest that 25% to 35% of patients with asthma may not improve lung function with inhaled corticosteroids.
Objective: To evaluate potential biomarkers of predicting short-term (6-week) response to inhaled corticosteroid with subsequent evaluation of responders and nonresponders to asthma control over a longer interval (16 additional weeks).
Methods: Eighty-three subjects with asthma off steroid were enrolled in this multicenter study. Biomarkers and asthma characteristics were evaluated as predictors of inhaled corticosteroid response over a 6-week trial for changes in FEV(1) and methacholine PC(20). After this, an additional 4-month trial evaluated asthma control.
Results: Although multiple baseline predictors had significant correlations with improvements for short-term inhaled steroid success, the only strong correlations (r >or= +/- 0.6) were albuterol reversibility (r = 0.83; P < .001), FEV(1)/forced vital capacity (r = -0.75; P < .001), and FEV(1) % predicted (r = -0.71; P < .001). Dividing the subjects in the short-term inhaled steroid trial into responders (>5% FEV(1) improvement) and nonresponders (<or=5%) determined the longer-term need for steroids. For the nonresponders, asthma control remained unchanged whether inhaled corticosteroids were continued or were substituted with a placebo (P = .99). The good short-term responders maintained asthma control longer-term only if maintained on inhaled steroids (P = .007).
Conclusion: The short-term response to inhaled corticosteroids with regard to FEV(1) improvement predicts long-term asthma control.
Clinical implications: The decision to use long-term inhaled steroids could be based on a short-term trial. Different therapeutic strategies would need to be established for nonresponders.