Methylxanthines is no longer used to treat childhood asthma in Western// countries, however it is still used in developing countries to treat routine cough in children with asthma.
A study has found no benefit of the drug. "We found a lack of good evidence for using Methylxanthines for children's cough that was not associated with other asthma symptoms," says lead author of the study Dr.Anne Chang, from Royal Children's Hospital in Queensland, Australia.
The study is published in the July issue of The Cochrane Library, a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates medical research.
The Cochrane Collaboration does looks at evidence-based conclusions about medical practice. "This drug was widely abandoned in the U.S. when safer alternatives became available for the immediate relief of wheezing," says Richard L. Gorman, M.D., chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Drugs.
"The Cochrane Review states there is no data to support the use of Methylxanthines. I would strongly concur," Gorman says. He also stated: "Information that could be used to stop unsafe practices is as important as information that can be used for effective new therapies."
He further added: "Knowledge is always desirable, While methylxanthines would not be my first choice of agents to study, a well designed trial or series of trials that demonstrated efficacy in certain situations or lack of efficacy in the face of well known toxicities would be very welcome."
Methylxanthines work by relaxing the bronchial airways and this in turn helps to reduce coughing, wheezing or difficulty in breathing. However they are also potentially dangerous for children as they can impair the developing nervous system. They cause mental irritability, seizures and cardiac arrhythmias that can lead to death.
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