SUNDAY, Sept. 19 (HealthDay News) -- For asthma patients whose condition is not controlled with standard inhaled steroids, the addition of Spiriva -- a medication already approved for lung disease -- appears to improve breathing, a new study finds.
However, the study authors and an outside expert stressed that these are early findings and much longer, larger clinical trials are needed.
Tiotropium bromide (Spiriva)) belongs to a class of drugs called anticholinergics, which work by enlarging the airways to allow for easier breathing. Currently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has only approved the medication for use by patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a chronic ailment that is a combination of bronchitis and emphysema.
Treating asthma has never been a one-size-fits-all proposition, so "having a new class of asthma medications could be potentially important," said lead researcher Dr. Stephen P. Peters, a professor of pulmonary, critical care, allergy, and immunologic medicine at Wake Forest University, in Winston-Salem, NC.
"People are different. Some people will respond to some medications, some respond to others," he said.
The report, funded by the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, is published in the Sept. 19 online edition of the New England Journal of Medicine. The journal is releasing the data early to coincide with its presentation Sunday at the European Respiratory Society meeting in Barcelona.
For the study, Peters' team tried three drug regimens on 210 asthmatics. These included: Spiriva plus an inhaled steroid; a double dose of the inhaled steroid; and an inhaled steroid plus Serevent, a long-acting beta agonist that relaxes the muscles in the airway.
Patients stayed on each regiment for 14 weeks.
The researchers found that Spiriva plus an inhaled steroid was more effective than givi
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