Background: The Inhaled Steroid Treatment as Regular Therapy in Early Asthma (START) study enrolled 7241 patients aged 5 to 66 years with recent-onset, mild persistent asthma to assess early intervention with the inhaled corticosteroid budesonide on long-term asthma control.
Objective: The open-label phase of the START study was included to determine the effect on lung function and asthma control of adding budesonide to the reference group patients who had not initially received inhaled corticosteroids.
Methods: Patients were randomized to double-blind treatment with budesonide, 200 mug (those aged < 11 years) or 400 mug once daily, or placebo plus the usual asthma therapy for 3 years, after which all patients received 2 years of open-label treatment with budesonide once daily.
Results: During the full 5-year study period, postbronchodilator FEV(1) percent predicted decreased, irrespective of randomized treatment during the double-blind phase, by an average of 2.22% (SE, 0.15%). However, patients with inhaled budesonide in the double-blind phase had a significantly lower risk (odds ratio, 0.61; P < .001) of a severe asthma-related event during the full 5-year study period than those in the reference group. Moreover, patients in the reference group used more additional asthma medications during both the open-label and double-blind phases.
Conclusions: In mild persistent asthma early intervention with inhaled budesonide was associated with improved asthma control and less additional asthma medication use.