Background: Patients with mild asthma frequently have only exercise-induced bronchoconstriction, a symptom of inadequate control of asthma. We evaluated the ability of montelukast, a leukotriene-receptor antagonist, to protect such patients against exercise-induced bronchoconstriction.
Methods: We randomly assigned 110 patients (age, 15 to 45 years) with mild asthma and a decrease in the forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) of at least 20 percent after exercise on two occasions during a placebo run-in period to receive 10 mg of montelukast (54 patients) or placebo (56 patients) once daily at bedtime for 12 weeks in a double-blind study. Treatment was followed by a two-week, single-blind washout period during which all patients received placebo. Exercise challenges were performed at base line; 20 to 24 hours after dosing at weeks 4, 8, and 12; and at the end of the washout period. The primary end point was the area under the curve for FEV1 (expressed as the percent change from base-line values) in the first 60 minutes after exercise. This measure summarized the extent and duration of bronchoconstriction after exercise.
Results: At 12 weeks, montelukast therapy offered significantly greater protection against exercise-induced bronchoconstriction than placebo therapy (expressed as the percentage of inhibition of the end points), as evidenced by the improvement in the area under the FEV1 curve (degree of inhibition, 47.4 percent; P=0.002). Montelukast therapy was also associated with a significant improvement in the maximal decrease in FEV1 after exercise (P=0.003) and the time from the maximal decrease in FEV1 to the return of lung function to within 5 percent of pre-exercise values (P=0.04). The differences between groups in the various measures of lung function were similar at 4, 8, and 12 weeks; there was no evidence of rebound worsening of lung function in the montelukast group after the washout period. After 12 weeks of treatment, patients in the montelukast group were more likely to rate their asthma control as better and less likely to require rescue therapy with a beta-agonist during or after exercise challenge. The rates of adverse events were similar in the two groups.
Conclusions: As compared with placebo, once-daily treatment with montelukast provided significant protection against exercise-induced asthma over a 12-week period. Tolerance to the medication and rebound worsening of lung function after discontinuation of treatment were not seen.