The object of this investigation was to study the long-term effects of antiasthma treatment on blood markers of inflammation and lung function in adult asthmatic subjects. For this purpose 85 allergic and nonallergic asthmatic subjects were randomized into three groups, which were given high-dose (1,600 micrograms/d) inhaled budesonide, low-dose (400 micrograms/d) inhaled budesonide, and oral theophylline (600 mg/d), respectively, and were followed for 11 mo with testing of lung function and blood sampling for the assay in serum of eosinophil cationic protein (ECP), eosinophil protein x/eosinophil derived neurotoxin (EPX/EDN) as eosinophil markers, and myeloperoxidase (MPO) and lactoferrin (LF) as neutrophil markers. Lung functions (FEV1% predicted, and histamine PC20) and the eosinophil markers ECP and EPX/EDN were improved and reduced, respectively, by budesonide in a dose-dependent and temporally parallel fashion. Theophylline did not alter lung functions but reduced ECP and EPX/EDN after prolonged treatment. The treatment efficacy of budesonide was attributed solely to an effect on nonsmoking asthmatic subjects, since neither lung functions nor eosinophil markers changed in smokers even with high-dose budesonide. MPO but not LF was reduced after several months of treatment in all three groups, but only in nonsmokers. We conclude that ECP and EPX/EDN may be used to monitor antiinflammatory treatment in asthmatic patients, and that smoking asthmatic subjects are resistant to inhaled corticosteroids.