Airway-stabilizing effect of long-acting beta(2)-agonists as add-on therapy to inhaled corticosteroids

G P Currie, C M Jackson, S A Ogston, B J Lipworth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The protection afforded by long-acting beta(2)-agonists against bronchoconstrictor stimuli can be regarded as a surrogate for their stabilizing effects on airway smooth muscle.

Aim: To determine the magnitude of residual bronchoprotection after chronic dosing with long-acting beta(2)-agonists.

Design: Retrospective meta-analysis

Methods: Medline, BIDS and Cochrane Library databases were searched from 1990. A meta-analysis was then performed of 13 eligible randomized placebo-controlled trials (596 patients) in which second-line treatment with a long-acting beta(2)-agonist (salmeterol or formoterol) was used for 1 week or more. The residual protection against bronchoconstrictor stimuli as doubling dose/dilution shift was the main outcome measure.

Results: Data were assessed according to Quorum criteria. Combining the results of the meta-analysis, the overall estimated protection amounted to a 0.79 (95% CI 0.63-0.96) doubling dose/ dilution shift from placebo. Subgroup analysis showed greater protection at peak vs. trough, but no difference between formoterol vs. salmeterol, or between direct vs. indirect challenge. There was no evidence of significant heterogeneity across all the studies, or within any of the subgroups.

Discussion: When used as second-line treatment, the overall additive protective effect of long-acting beta(2)-agonists amounts to a 0.8 doubling dose/dilution shift. This stabilizing effect on airway smooth muscle may explain their beneficial effects on exacerbations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)435-440
Number of pages6
JournalQJM: An International Journal of Medicine
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2003


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