Background: Troleandomycin (TAO), a macrolide antibiotic, was studied as an alternative treatment in 18 children with severe, steroid-requiring asthma.
Methods: In this investigation three treatment arms were used in randomized, double-blind, parallel fashion: combination TAO and methylprednisolone (MPn), combination TAO and prednisone, and MPn alone.
Results: All groups tolerated a considerable reduction in glucocorticoid dose over the 12 weeks of the study: 80% +/- 6% for TAO-MPn, 55% +/- 8% for TAO-prednisone, and 44% +/- 14% for MPn alone. These reductions are all statistically significant (p < 0.05) within groups, and the differences between groups were statistically significant between the TAO-MPn and MPn alone groups. The concentration of methacholine required to induce a 20% decrease in forced expiratory volume in 1 second and pulmonary function were not significantly improved in any treatment group. Safety parameters including blood chemistry and hematology, adrenal function assessment; bone densitometry, and muscle strength testing, were not altered significantly. Two patients who received TAO had elevated liver enzyme levels; one required discontinuation of TAO and one experienced spontaneous resolution without intervention. Lack of statistically significant changes in the efficacy parameters were likely a result of small sample size and effects of the glucocorticoid dose taper.
Conclusions: TAO is safe and may be a reasonable treatment alternative in a limited trial for patients who are unable to tolerate tapering of their glucocorticoid dosage. Therapy should be guided by the goal of treatment, that is, glucocorticoid dose reduction or improvement of pulmonary function with appropriate monitoring of pulmonary function and adverse effects.