Background: An association between salmeterol use and serious asthma episodes or asthma-related mortality has been noted in 2 clinical trials; however, a causal relationship has not been established. To date, observational studies have not replicated this finding.
Objective: To examine the relationship between number of prescriptions dispensed of salmeterol-containing products and inhaled corticosteroid (ICS)-containing products and the rates of asthma-related hospitalizations and mortality in the United States.
Methods: In this ecologic study, annual age-adjusted rates of asthma-related hospitalization and asthma-related mortality from US population-based sources were graphed alongside annual number of prescriptions dispensed of salmeterol- and ICS-containing products by year from 1991 to 2004. We computed the Spearman rank correlations between number of prescriptions dispensed and serious events (asthma-related hospitalization rate, number of hospitalizations, asthma-related mortality rate, and number of asthma deaths).
Results: During more than 14 years, while number of prescriptions dispensed of salmeterol-containing and ICS-containing products increased, age-adjusted asthma-related mortality rates declined and asthma-related hospitalization rates remained relatively stable. The number of asthma-related deaths has decreased steadily since the mid-1990s.
Conclusion: This study provides population-level evidence that asthma-related death rates declined and asthma-related hospitalization rates remained relatively constant for more than 14 years during a period of improvements in asthma management per treatment guidelines, including increased use of maintenance medications, such as ICSs and salmeterol.