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Study: Combined Asthma Medication Therapy Shown To Reduce Attacks

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DETROIT (WWJ) - A Henry Ford Hospital study has found that using two types of common asthma medications in combination reduces severe asthma attacks.

Researchers say using long-acting beta-agonists (LABAs) in fixed-dose combination with inhaled corticosteroid (ICS) appear to reduce asthma attacks as well as or better than corticosteroids alone.

Patient groups who had in greatest benefits were those ages 18 and older, African-American patients, male patients and those with moderate to severe asthma.

The study is believed to be the first to estimate actual patient use when assessing the effectiveness of these medications in reducing severe asthma attacks. Researchers analyzed data of 1,828 asthma patients who received an ICS/LABA combination or an ICS alone between January 2003 and December 2010.

Researchers say the findings are a key development in asthma treatment involving LABAs as a potential therapy.

The safety of LABAs by themselves as a therapy were called into question after a high number of deaths and serious asthma attacks were reported in the Salmeterol Multicenter Asthma Research Trial, forcing it to be abruptly stopped in 2003.

In this study, African-American patients, in particular, fared worse than using a LABA inhaler as compared to placebo.

As a result, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration suggested limiting the use of LABAs to patients already taking an asthma controller such as an inhaled corticosteroid. A series of clinical trials are under way investigating the benefits of LABA in combination with ICS treatment, and results are not expected until 2017.

Karen Wells, a Henry Ford researcher and the study’s lead author, said until those trials are completed, the study provides important interim evidence that a fixed-dose combination therapy can reduce asthma attacks.

More than 20 million Americans, or approximately 1 in 15, suffer from asthma, which accounts for nearly 500,000 hospitalizations in the United States annually, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

The study was funded by the American Asthma Foundation, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and National Institutes of Health.

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