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Asthma tablets 'as effective' as inhalers

A little-used asthma treatment could be just as effective and easier to use than conventional inhalers, scientists have said.

According to research, led by the University of East Anglia (UEA), leukotriene receptor antagonists (LTRAs) were equally as successful at managing the disease as steroid inhalers.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, involved 650 patients with chronic asthma over a two-year period.

LTRAs - tablets sold under the brand names Singulair (montelukast) and Accolate (zafirlukast) - have been on the market for some time, but have been viewed by some to be a less effective treatment for warding off asthma attacks.

Under UK guidelines they are currently recommended as third or fourth steps in asthma management. As a result, LTRAs are far less frequently prescribed than inhalers.

The results indicate that LTRAs could provide an effective alternative to steroid inhalers and other ‘preventer’ inhalers when used in addition to steroid inhalers, which could be useful for the more than 80% of patients who have problems using inhalers, are unable to use them due to side effects, or do not want to take steroids.

“We hope these findings will increase the options for healthcare professionals when prescribing for this common but disruptive disease,” said lead author Prof David Price of the University of Aberdeen and UEA.

“We found that adherence to treatment was vastly improved - by as much as 60% - when patients were given the once-a-day LTRA tablets and patients did not have to worry about using appropriate inhaler technique.”

Readers' comments (1)

  • My son was put on singleair years ago and the difference was very quickly noticed, no longer did we have emergency admissions, he gained weight and height (not to much weight but upto average). He now is very keen to take part in sports goes running with our dog.
    I really do think we miss a trick by not using them more often in the long run they will save the NHS money in admissions and treatment. He now only sees the GP every 6 months, rather than the hospital and GP as before.

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