Inhaled steroid/tobacco smoke particle interactions: a new light on steroid resistance

Respir Res. 2009 Jun 11;10(1):48. doi: 10.1186/1465-9921-10-48.


Background: Inhaled steroid resistance is an obstacle to asthma control in asthmatic smokers. The reasons of this phenomenon are not yet entirely understood. Interaction of drug particles with environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) could change the aerodynamic profile of the drug through the particle coagulation phenomenon. Aim of the present study was to examine whether steroid particles interact with smoke when delivered in the presence of ETS.

Methods: Beclomethasone-hydrofluoralkane (BDP-HFA) pMDI particle profile was studied after a single actuation delivered in ambient air or in the presence of ETS in an experimental chamber using a light scattering Optical Particle Counter capable of measuring the concentrations of particle sized 0.3-1.0, 1.1-2.0, 2.1-3.0, 3.1-4.0, 4.1-5.0, and > 5.1 microm in diameter with a sampling time of one second. The number of drug particles delivered after a single actuation was measured as the difference between total particle number after drug delivery and background particle number. Two groups of experiments were carried out at different ambient background particle concentrations. Two-tail Student's t-test was used for statistical analysis.

Results: When delivered in ambient air, over 90% of BDP-HFA particles were found in the 0.3-1.0 microm size class, while particles sized 1.1-2.0 microm and 2.1-3.0 represented less than 6.6% and 2.8% of total particles, respectively. However, when delivered in the presence of ETS, drug particle profile was modified, with an impressive decrease of 0.3-1.0 microm particles, the most represented particles resulting those sized 1.1-2.0 microm (over 66.6% of total particles), and 2.1-3.0 microm particles accounting up to 31% of total particles.

Conclusion: Our data suggest that particle interaction between inhaled BDP-HFA pMDI and ETS takes place in the first few seconds after drug delivery, with a decrease in smaller particles and a concurrent increase of larger particles. The resulting changes in aerosol particle profile might modify regional drug deposition with potential detriment to drug efficacy, and represent a new element of steroid resistance in smokers. Although the present study does not provide any functional or clinical assessment, it might be useful to advise smokers and non smokers with obstructive lung disease such as asthma or COPD, to avoid to act inhaled drugs in the presence of ETS in order to obtain the best therapeutic effect.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Aerosols / administration & dosage
  • Asthma / drug therapy*
  • Beclomethasone / administration & dosage*
  • Beclomethasone / pharmacology
  • Drug Resistance*
  • Glucocorticoids / adverse effects
  • Glucocorticoids / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Particle Size
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / drug therapy
  • Smoke / analysis*
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Steroids / adverse effects
  • Steroids / therapeutic use*
  • Tobacco


  • Aerosols
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Smoke
  • Steroids
  • Beclomethasone