A rarely prescribed asthma drug is easier to use and just as effective as conventional treatment with inhalers, according to research published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Researchers from the University of East Anglia and the University of Aberdeen followed 650 patients with chronic asthma for two years. They found that leukotriene receptor antagonists (LTRAs) tablets managed the disease equally as successfully as steroid inhalers and other ‘preventer’ inhalers when used in addition to steroid inhalers.
The LTRAs Singulair (montelukast) and Accolate (zafirlukast) have been considered by some to be less effective and have historically been prescribed less frequently than inhalers. Under UK guidelines they are currently recommended as the third or fourth step in asthma management.
However, the researchers said that the results of this study indicated that LTRAs could provide an effective alternative to steroid inhalers and other ‘preventer’ inhalers when used in addition to steroid inhalers. In particular, they could be useful alternative for the more than 80 per cent of patients who have problems using inhalers, are unable to use them due to side effects, or do not want to take steroids.
Professor David Price of the University of Aberdeen and UEA said: “We found that adherence to treatment was vastly improved - by as much as 60 per cent – when patients were given the once-a-day LTRA tablets and patients did not have to worry about using appropriate inhaler technique.
“We hope these findings will increase the options for healthcare professionals when prescribing for this common but disruptive disease.”
Dr Stanley Musgrave of Norwich Medical School at UEA added: “LTRAs are easy to use and can help patients control their asthma effectively and improve their quality of life.”
Watch the BBC's news report here.