Background: Treatment guidelines recommend the regular use of inhaled corticosteroids for patients with mild persistent asthma. We investigated whether the symptom-driven use of a combination of beclomethasone dipropionate and albuterol (also known as salbutamol) in a single inhaler would be as effective as the regular use of inhaled beclomethasone and superior to the as-needed use of inhaled albuterol.
Methods: We conducted a 6-month, double-blind, double-dummy, randomized, parallel-group trial. After a 4-week run-in, patients with mild asthma were randomly assigned to receive one of four inhaled treatments: placebo twice daily plus 250 microg of beclomethasone and 100 microg of albuterol in a single inhaler as needed (as-needed combination therapy); placebo twice daily plus 100 microg of albuterol as needed (as-needed albuterol therapy); 250 microg of beclomethasone twice daily and 100 microg of albuterol as needed (regular beclomethasone therapy); or 250 microg of beclomethasone and 100 microg of albuterol in a single inhaler twice daily plus 100 microg of albuterol as needed (regular combination therapy). The primary outcome was the morning peak expiratory flow rate.
Results: In 455 patients with mild asthma who had a forced expiratory volume in 1 second of 2.96 liters (88.36% of the predicted value), the morning peak expiratory flow rate during the last 2 weeks of the 6-month treatment was higher (P=0.04) and the number of exacerbations during the 6-month treatment was lower (P=0.002) in the as-needed combination therapy group than in the as-needed albuterol therapy group, but the values in the as-needed combination therapy group were not significantly different from those in the groups receiving regular beclomethasone therapy or regular combination therapy. The cumulative dose of inhaled beclomethasone was lower in the as-needed combination therapy group than in the groups receiving regular beclomethasone therapy or regular combination therapy (P<0.001 for both comparisons).
Conclusions: In patients with mild asthma, the symptom-driven use of inhaled beclomethasone (250 microg) and albuterol (100 microg) in a single inhaler is as effective as regular use of inhaled beclomethasone (250 microg twice daily) and is associated with a lower 6-month cumulative dose of the inhaled corticosteroid. (ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT00382889 [ClinicalTrials.gov].).
Copyright 2007 Massachusetts Medical Society.