The effects of regular inhaled formoterol, budesonide, and placebo on mucosal inflammation and clinical indices in mild asthma

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 1999 Jan;159(1):79-86. doi: 10.1164/ajrccm.159.1.9801007.


The present study was designed to observe the effects of 8 wk of treatment with formoterol (Foradil) 24 microgram, budesonide 400 microgram, and matched placebo inhaled twice a day on inflammatory indices in the bronchial mucosa of 64 patients with mild atopic asthma. Biopsies were obtained at the start and 1 wk before stopping a 9-wk period of treatment, and inflammatory cell numbers were assessed in the submucosa and epithelium by immunohistochemistry. Regular formoterol significantly reduced the number of submucosal mast cells, with a similar trend for eosinophils but not activated T cells. A subgroup analysis conducted in biopsies with >= 10 eosinophils per mm2 revealed a significant reduction in eosinophil numbers when compared with both pretreatment baseline (p < 0.01) and changes after placebo (p < 0.01). Parallel, but less pronounced, effects were observed on mast cell but not on CD25(+) T cell numbers. There was no effect of any of the three treatments on BAL levels of mast cell or eosinophil mediators. We conclude that regular treatment with inhaled formoterol reduces rather than increases inflammatory cells in the mucosa of asthmatic patients. It is possible that these cellular effects of formoterol may contribute to the therapeutic efficacy of this drug when used regularly in the treatment

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Asthma / complications
  • Asthma / drug therapy*
  • Asthma / pathology
  • Asthma / physiopathology*
  • Bronchi / pathology
  • Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid / chemistry
  • Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid / cytology
  • Bronchodilator Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Bronchodilator Agents / therapeutic use
  • Budesonide / administration & dosage*
  • Budesonide / therapeutic use
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Ethanolamines / administration & dosage*
  • Ethanolamines / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Formoterol Fumarate
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nasal Mucosa / drug effects*
  • Placebos
  • Stomatitis / drug therapy*
  • Stomatitis / etiology


  • Bronchodilator Agents
  • Ethanolamines
  • Placebos
  • Budesonide
  • Formoterol Fumarate