Asthma pill just as good as inhaler

Pills to treat asthma are less often prescribed than inhalers, but a British study published in the United States suggests they work just as well and are easier for patients to manage.

Researchers at Britain's University of East Anglia (UEA) followed 650 chronic asthma patients for two years, and found that drugs called leukotriene receptor antagonists (LTRAs) "managed the disease equally successfully."

The drugs are commonly marketed under the brand names Singulair and Accolate.

The research is published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Increasing options for asthmatics

"We hope these findings will increase the options for healthcare professionals when prescribing for this common but disruptive disease," said lead author 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."

In Britain, the pills are typically recommended as a third or fourth step in asthma management, and are "far less frequently prescribed than inhalers," the study noted.

Asthma is a chronic breathing disease that affects 300 million people worldwide. There is no cure, but it can be often managed with medication.

The government-sponsored randomised controlled trial, known as ELEVATE, gathered data from unpaid volunteer patients in 53 doctors offices across Britain.

(Sapa, May 2011)

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