Patients were allowed to comply as they wanted to and change medications as they needed to, Musgrove said.
The results at two months suggested that LTRAs were similarly effective to inhaled corticosteroids when used as a first-line treatment and to LABAs when used as an additional treatment. After two years, the effectiveness of both treatments was similar but researchers noted that "equivalence was not proved."
The main measure of the medications' effectiveness was the Mini Asthma Quality of Life Questionnaire. This 15-item quiz has total scores ranging from 15 to 105, with the higher scores indicating less asthma impairment. Scores increased by an average of 0.8 to 1 point in both arms of the trial. Asthma control and the frequency of asthma exacerbations was similar among the groups.
Musgrove said there were no significant side effects reported for any of the medications. However, in 2009, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration requested that the makers of LTRA medications add a warning to their drug labels because of serious behavioral side effects, including suicidal thoughts and depression in some people taking the medications.
The risks of inhaled steroids for asthma include hoarseness, thrush, sore throat, and possibly reduced bone density.
In terms of costs, a 2010 United Kingdom study that compared the costs of the two therapies for initial asthma control found that the price of LTRAs was "significantly higher" than that of inhaled steroids.
One expert said the most recent study comparing the effectiveness of LTRAs and inhaled steroids underscored the need for individualized therapy.
"These study findings don't make me change my mind. It confirms that there are various options, and there's not one answer for everyone," said Dr. Jennifer Appleyard, chief of allergy and immunology at St. John Hospital and Medical Center in Detroit.
"The National Institutes of Health has issued guidelines on
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