Using BAL, we studied the effects of 8 wk of treatment with salmeterol on airway inflammation in nine asthmatic subjects in a double-blind crossover placebo-controlled protocol. The study patients were all receiving regular inhaled corticosteroid therapy (400 to 1,000 micrograms beclomethasone dipropionate per day) and inhaled albuterol for symptomatic relief, i.e., subjects who might be considered suitable for treatment with salmeterol. The asthmatic group had significant differences in numbers of epithelial cells and eosinophils in BAL compared with a group of 15 normal control subjects (p < 0.01). During salmeterol treatment mean morning and evening peak flow rates were increased (p < 0.05). There was no significant change in BAL cell profile and no change in percentages of CD4 and CD8 lymphocytes or proportion of lymphocytes expressing HLA-DR after salmeterol. In conclusion, we were unable to demonstrate any significant anti-inflammatory effect of regular salmeterol therapy on airway inflammation using BAL in these asthmatic patients. At the same time, there was equally no evidence of a deterioration in the underlying inflammatory disease process.