Inhaled corticosteroids or long-acting beta-agonists alone or in fixed-dose combinations in asthma treatment: a systematic review of fluticasone/budesonide and formoterol/salmeterol

Christian Frois, Eric Q Wu, Saurabh Ray, Gene L Colice
Clinical Therapeutics 2009, 31 (12): 2779-803

BACKGROUND: Inhaled corticosteroids (ICSs) and long-acting inhaled beta(2)-agonists (LABAs) are recommended treatment options for asthma.

OBJECTIVE: This review compares the clinical effectiveness and tolerability of the ICSs fluticasone propionate and budesonide and the LABAs formoterol fumarate and salmeterol xinafoate administered alone or in combination.

METHODS: A systematic review of the clinical studies available on MEDLINE (database period, 1950-September 2009) was conducted to assess English-language randomized controlled trials in children and adults with asthma. Treatment outcomes included lung function, symptom-free days (SFDs), use of rescue/reliever medications, asthma exacerbations, and tolerability profile.

RESULTS: Use of fluticasone was associated with significantly greater improvement in lung function and better asthma symptom control than budesonide. Similarly, formoterol was associated with significantly greater improvement in lung function and better asthma symptom control (as measured by less rescue medication use and more SFDs) compared with salmeterol. Single inhaler combination regimens (budesonide/ formoterol and fluticasone/salmeterol) were frequently more effective in improving all treatment outcomes than either monotherapy alone. Across all comparisons, a review of studies in adults and children did not find statistically significant differences in outcomes between the ICS and LABA therapies considered in this research. In general, no differences in tolerability profiles were reported between the ICS and LABA options, although the risk for growth retardation was lower with fluticasone than budesonide and with budesonide/formoterol than with budesonide monotherapy.

CONCLUSIONS: In this systematic review, fluticasone and formoterol appear to provide improved therapeutic benefits versus budesonide and salmeterol, respectively. Both fluticasone/salmeterol and budesonide/ formoterol combination therapies appeared to be associated with greater improvements in outcomes measures than the corresponding ICS and LABA monotherapies.

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