For example, there were 20 asthma-related deaths, 16 among people taking long-acting beta agonists compared with four patients not taking these drugs. All the deaths were in patients taking Serevent, the FDA notes.
The increased risk wasn't seen when a long-acting beta agonist was used along with an inhaled corticosteroid, the agency found.
The greatest risk appears to be among children aged 4 to 11; women also appeared to be at greater risk than men.
Weinberger thinks that long-acting beta agonists should be used only in combination with inhaled steroids.
"All trials of the combination of long-acting beta agonists and an inhaled steroid demonstrate substantial additive effect for patients not fully controlled on the inhaled steroid alone," Weinberger said. "The sensible approach is to use the combination products only after inadequate control is observed with an inhaled steroid alone."
For their part, the drugs' manufacturers, in statements filed with the FDA, said they believe there is adequate evidence that their products are safe and effective when used properly.
"AstraZeneca believes that Symbicort exhibits a favorable benefit-risk profile in patients 6 years of age and older. Symbicort offers an important therapeutic option for asthma patients who cannot be adequately controlled on other asthma controller medications [low- to medium-dose inhaled corticosteroids] or whose disease severity clearly warrants initiation of treatment with two maintenance therapies," the company said in its statement.
GlaxoSmithKline said in its statement: "The combination of salmeterol with an inhaled corticosteroid provides unsurpassed asthma control to patients by improving lung function, preventin
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