Aim: The simplification of the management of asthma in the different clinical phases of this common chronic inflammatory disorder is the main goal of therapy. Pycnogenol®, a standardized extract of French maritime pine bark, inhibits expression of 5-lipoxygenase and consequently decreases leukotriene levels in asthmatic patients. Pycnogenol® anti-inflammatory activities may be supportive when taken in addition to inhalation corticosteroid (ICS), putatively allowing for a reduction in dosage and frequency of ICS administration.
Methods: This study evaluated the efficacy of Pycnogenol® during a period of six months for improving allergic (mite in house dust) asthma management in patients with stable, controlled conditions. Pycnogenol® was used at a daily dosage of 100 mg, distributed as 50 mg in the morning at 9 am and again in the evening at 9 pm). An individual patient's asthma condition was graded in five steps based on the daily dosage of inhaled fluticasone propionate with step 1 indicating 0 µg and step 5 the maximum dose of 500 µg ICS twice daily.
Results: A total 76 patients were enrolled for this study. The group taking Pycnogenol® in addition to ICS and the group taking only ICS were comparable for age, gender and clinical characteristics including FEV1. The analysis of therapeutic ranking steps showed that 55% of patients taking Pycnogenol® improved as judged by passing to a lower ICS dose step. In comparison, only 6% of patients depending exclusively on ICS progressed to a lower (ICS dose) therapeutic step. No deterioration (passage to a higher ICS therapeutic step) was observed in the Pycnogenol® group, whereas in 18.8% of patients depending exclusively on corticosteroids a deterioration requiring a higher dosage step was observed. The passage to different therapeutic steps was statistical significant between groups (P<0.05). Drop-outs were associated entirely to irregularities in follow-up and not due to medical reasons. No serious adverse events were observed in both groups and tolerability of Pycnogenol® was very good. The levels of asthma control in the 6 interventional months as compared to the same period in the previous year were compared. In the Pycnogenol® group, night-awakenings were less frequent, the number of days with PEF<80% were decreased, days with asthma score >1 were lower, requirement for salbutamol and additional asthma medication less frequent, and consultation of general practitioner and specialist required less commonly. All these parameters were statistical significantly improved in Pycnogenol® + ICS group versus the ICS control group where no considerable changes were observed. Various common signs and symptoms were evaluated by visual analog scale, (dry) cough, severity of chest symptoms, wheezing, dyspnea and daytime symptoms. In the ICS-only group values did not improve while they did improve significantly in the ICS + Pycnogenol® group (P<0.05 vs. ICS only group). A decrease by 15.2% of the specific IgE titer was found in the Pycnogenol® + ICS group, whereas the titer increased by 13.4% in the ICS-only group, while IgG1 and IgG4 remained unchanged in both groups.
Conclusion: Pycnogenol® administration was effective for better control of signs and symptoms of allergic asthma and reduced the need for medication.