The current dilemma with spirometric inclusion criteria for asthma drug trials

Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 1997 Sep;79(3):226-8. doi: 10.1016/s1081-1206(10)63006-2.


Background: Spirometric inclusion criteria for asthma drug studies often require resting airflow obstruction and resting bronchoconstriction. By current standards, these criteria define suboptimal to poor asthma control.

Objective: To determine what proportion of asthmatic patients attending a tertiary University-based respiratory clinic meet typical drug study spirometric criteria of a baseline FEV1 of 50% to 80% predicted and > or = 15% delta FEV1 improvement following 200 micrograms inhaled albuterol.

Methods: A retrospective review was performed on charts of white caucasian asthmatic patients attending three respiratory physician outpatient clinics at a University-based tertiary referral center. We reviewed charts of all patients with chronic asthma under current therapy. We excluded subjects with additional lung diseases that might affect lung function. Spirometric data were extracted from the most recent scheduled outpatient visit.

Results: We reviewed 590 charts of patients with mean age 35.3 +/- 18.3 years (range 6 to 94), 43% male, and 50% atopic. There was objective evidence of variable airflow obstruction or airway hyperresponsiveness in 70.2%; the diagnosis of asthma was based on historical data alone in 29.8%. The majority of patients (87.5%) required inhaled corticosteroids with more than 50% using medium to high doses. Baseline FEV1 was > 80% in 84.6% of subjects, 50% to 80% in 14.4%, and < 50% in 1.0%. FEV1 improved by > or = 15% 10 to 15 minutes after 200 micrograms inhaled albuterol in 13.6%. Only 9.0% of the 590 asthmatic patients fulfilled both criteria (FEV1 50% to 80% and delta FEV1 > or = 15%).

Conclusion: Less than 10% of asthmatic patients attending a tertiary referral respiratory clinic fulfilled typical spirometry inclusion criteria for asthma drug trials. We suggest this approach to enrollment in asthma drug studies be reevaluated.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Albuterol / administration & dosage
  • Albuterol / therapeutic use
  • Asthma / diagnosis
  • Asthma / drug therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spirometry*


  • Albuterol