The self-administration of inhaled beta agonist drugs during severe asthma

N Z Med J. 1990 May 9;103(889):205-7.


Interviews were conducted with 101 consecutive adult patients admitted to Wellington Hospital with a diagnosis of asthma to assess the extent to which beta agonist drugs are self-administered by asthmatic patients during severe asthma. The 99 patients prescribed an inhaled beta agonist were subdivided into two groups: group A comprising 79 patients prescribed a beta agonist for inhalation via an inhaler (metered dose aerosol or dry powder device) alone; group B comprising 20 patients prescribed beta agonist for inhalation via both an inhaler and nebuliser. In group A, the attacks of asthma lasted greater than 24 hours in 64/79 patients, and 22% of these patients reported taking more than 60 doses of their inhaler, and 52% more than 30 doses during the 24 hr period prior to admission. In group B, the attacks of asthma lasted greater than 24 h in 17/20 patients, and 35% of these patients self-administered their nebuliser more than six times, and 76% more than four times during the 24 h period prior to admission. In addition to their nebuliser use, these patients also took a median 23 doses of their inhaler during this 24 h period. This use of inhaled beta agonist contrasts with the recommended practice in both the USA and Europe, where most physicians recommend no more than 15 doses of a beta agonist as the maximal dose per day. We conclude that asthmatic patients in New Zealand self-administer high doses of inhaled beta 2 agonist drugs during severe exacerbations of asthma.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / administration & dosage
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Asthma / drug therapy*
  • Asthma / mortality
  • Female
  • Fenoterol / administration & dosage*
  • Fenoterol / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nebulizers and Vaporizers
  • New Zealand / epidemiology
  • Self Administration* / methods
  • Time Factors


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Fenoterol