We retrospectively studied the use of inhaled corticosteroids in patients who experienced near fatal episodes (NFE) to determine whether such therapy reduces the risk of death. Forty-eight patients who had near fatal episodes of asthma between January 1981 and December 1989 were divided into two groups. Group A comprised 19 patients who received beclomethasone dipropionate (BDP) daily (mean dose of BDP:687 micrograms/day: 200-2,000) following NFE, and Group B, 28 patients who did not take BDP or who took less than 6 mg BDP/month. During the follow-up period (Group A:82.9 months, Group B:66.2 months), no patients in Group A died, but eight deaths occurred in Group B (mean period between near fatal episode and death was 31.5 months: 12-66). These results suggest that the regular use of inhaled corticosteroids, even at low doses, may reduce the risk of death in patients who experience NFE.