Benefit-risk assessment of long-acting beta(2)-agonists in asthma

C M Jackson, B Lipworth

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


The use of a regular long-acting beta(2)-adrenoceptor agonists (beta(2)-agonists; LABA) is now established in asthma guidelines as the preferred option for second-line controller therapy in addition to inhaled corticosteroids. This has been driven by data showing beneficial effects of LABAs on exacerbation rates, in turn suggesting a putative corticosteroid-sparing effect. As LABAs are devoid of any clinically meaningful anti-inflammatory activity in vivo, their effects on exacerbations are presumably due to a diurnal stabilising effect on airway smooth muscle. LABAs have marked effects on symptoms and lung function, and this may make it difficult to assess anti-inflammatory control with inhaled corticosteroids when used in a combination inhaler such as fluticasone propionate/salmeterol or budesonide/formoterol. The use of fixed-dose combination inhalers is in many respects counter-intuitive to conventional teaching regarding flexible dosage titration with inhaled corticosteroids. It would therefore seem prudent first to gain optimal control of inflammation with inhaled corticosteroids before considering adding a LABA. Increasing the dosage of inhaled corticosteroids will have a relatively greater effect on exacerbations than onsymptoms and lung function, whereas the converse applies when adding a LABA. Another option is to add a leukotriene receptor antagonist, which confers additional anti-inflammatory activity and is as effective on exacerbations as adding a LABA.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)243-270
Number of pages28
JournalDrug Safety
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2004


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