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New study could lessen asthmatics reliance on inhalers

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
October 22nd, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The majority of adults who suffer from mild or moderate asthma typically use their inhalers twice daily, even if they are without symptoms. Now, the global treatment guidelines for asthma may change as a result of a study led by a researcher at the University of Texas Medical Branch.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The medicine commonly fond in those inhalers are corticosteroids, which open airways and decreases mucus so it's easier to breathe. Inhaled corticosteroids are the most common and the most effective form of therapy for asthma.

During an asthma attack, the airways of the lungs become inflamed and swollen. Attacks are usually triggered by a wide range of factors, some genetic, some environmental. Dust, air pollution or smoke can set off an asthma attack. The change of seasons can also trigger an attack.

Frank Grizzaffi knows this routine well.

"There was a regime that I was supposed to follow, it was two puffs in the morning and two puffs in the evening," longtime asthma sufferer Frank Grizzaffi says.

Grizzaffi then participated in a study that involved 10 academic centers with than 300 adults test subjects with mild to moderate asthma.

Doctors evaluated the patients to determine the lowest possible dose of medication that would control their asthma.
"The amount of corticosteroid that a patient received during the trial was dependent upon the amount of symptoms they had. When they had fewer symptoms they got less steroid, when they had more symptoms they got more steroid," Dr. William Calhoun, who led the study, says.

Doctors looked at three different ways of treating the patients following the adjustment of their medications.

One group received their adjusted dose of steroids and took them as usual. A second group had their steroid levels adjusted after taking sophisticated breath tests for asthma. A third group was told to use inhalers only when their symptoms flared up.

Surprisingly, patients in this last group did just as well as those in the other two groups. The major difference is this group used only used half as much medication. 

"The symptoms-based arm resulted in a reduced use of inhaled corticosteroids, a 50 percent reduction. It also resulted in a reduction in exacerbation in the autumn, a time when exacerbation are typically high and it also resulted in a reduction in absenteeism from school or work," Calhoun said.

These findings could change international standards of care as well as reduce costs. Patients will need less medication, limiting long-term exposure to corticosteroids.

Under his physician's care, Grizzaffi no longer needs to follow his old regimen.

"I'll take one puff in the morning and that usually takes care of it the rest of the day. I feel great, I feel really good," he said.

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