Clinical efficacy of inhaler devices containing beta(2)-agonist bronchodilators in the treatment of asthma: cochrane systematic review and meta-analysis of more than 100 randomized, controlled trials

Felix S F Ram
American Journal of Respiratory Medicine: Drugs, Devices, and Other Interventions 2003, 2 (4): 349-65

BACKGROUND: A number of different inhaler devices are available to deliver beta(2)-adrenoceptor agonist (beta(2)-agonist) bronchodilators in asthma. These include hydrofluoroalkane or chlorofluorocarbon (CFC)-free propelled pressurized metered-dose inhalers (pMDIs), many dry powder inhalers and breath-actuated inhalers.

OBJECTIVE: To determine the clinical efficacy of all available hand-held inhaler devices compared with the standard CFC-containing pMDI for the delivery of short-acting beta(2)-agonist bronchodilators in nonacute asthma in both children and adults.

METHODOLOGY: A systematic review and meta-analysis was carried out of all available randomized, controlled trials (RCTs) using the standard pMDI compared with any other hand-held inhaler device, delivering short-acting beta(2)-agonist bronchodilators in patients with stable asthma.

RESULTS: One hundred and eighteen RCTs were included in this review. No clinical differences were found between the standard CFC-containing pMDI and 12 other hand-held inhaler devices for most outcome measures. We found no evidence of clinical differences between studies using either a 1 : 1 (pMDI: another inhaler) or a 2 : 1 dosing ratio.

CONCLUSIONS: In patients with stable asthma, short-acting beta(2)-agonist bronchodilators in standard CFC-pMDIs are as effective as any other hand-held inhaler device; therefore the cheapest available device that the patient is able to use should always be considered. Pharmaceutical companies should in future submit to regulatory authorities clinical outcome data (as opposed to in vitro data) in support of any dosing schedules greater than 1 : 1 when compared with the standard pMDI. Clinical effectiveness studies that use an intention-to-treat analysis and report more patient-centered outcomes are required.

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