Background: Many patients with severe asthma are dependent on oral corticosteroids for maintenance control of their disease. Treatments that allow patients to be weaned off oral corticosteroids may help to minimize the risk of side effects associated with their chronic use.
Objective: This study evaluated whether inhaled fluticasone propionate powder could maintain pulmonary function while reducing the dose of oral prednisone in patients with chronic, severe asthma.
Methods: Oral prednisone-dependent (5 to 40 mg/day) adolescents and adults with asthma (n = 111; mean FEV1 = 61% of predicted value) were randomized to placebo or twice daily fluticasone propionate 500 or 1000 microg administered by means of a multidose powder inhaler for 16 weeks in a double-blind, parallel-group study. Patients underwent controlled prednisone reduction on the basis of predetermined asthma stability criteria.
Results: Oral prednisone was eliminated by 75% and 89% of patients in the twice daily 500 and 1000 microg fluticasone propionate groups, respectively, versus 9% of the placebo group (P <.001). FEV1, morning and evening peak expiratory flow, asthma symptoms, albuterol use, and nighttime awakenings improved with fluticasone propionate treatment, achieving statistical significance (P </=.009) primarily in the 1000 microg twice daily group. Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis suppression observed at baseline improved when patients were weaned off oral prednisone to fluticasone propionate. Adverse events ascribed to drug treatment were primarily topical effects of inhaled corticosteroids or those associated with prednisone withdrawal. Patient quality of life assessed by means of the Asthma Quality of Life Questionnaire was clinically and significantly improved after fluticasone propionate treatment (P </=.003).
Conclusion: Fluticasone propionate powder (500 or 1000 microg twice daily) effectively improved lung function, adrenal function, and asthma-specific quality of life in patients with severe chronic asthma previously treated with oral prednisone while allowing most patients to be weaned off oral corticosteroid therapy.