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Medco Study: Despite FDA Warnings, Nearly One-Third of Asthma Patients Still Treated with Long-Acting Beta Agonists Without Controller Medications, Increasing Their Risk for Complications and Hospitalizations
Date:5/11/2010

t specialized care can significantly improve clinical outcomes when treating patients with asthma."

The FDA requires product label warnings against the use of LABAs as monotherapy, and the national prescribing guidelines call for use of LABAs alone only in rare cases when the patient's asthma cannot be managed effectively with other medications.  Each year asthmatic attacks cause 500,000 hospitalizations, 217,000 ER visits and more than 4,000 deaths.  

"Whether physicians are not following the prescribing guidelines for LABAs or patients are not filling the prescriptions for their other controller medications, taking LABAs alone presents a significant safety risk for asthma patients, especially for children," said Dr. Luis Salmun, National Practice Leader for the Medco Pulmonary TRC.  "Patients may feel like they are getting symptom relief from using LABAs alone, but they are actually masking the underlying inflammation, which could put them at serious risk for complications from the disease."

The Medco study evaluated medication claims data for asthma patients who had continuous prescription drug coverage during calendar year 2009.  The number of asthma patients using LABA therapy during a six month period between April and September was collected and the percentage of those patients using LABA monotherapy was calculated by excluding patients with overlapping days' supplies for inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) or leukotriene modifiers during the study period or three months before or after that time-frame.  Patients being treated for COPD were also excluded from the study.  

Researchers identified 9,841 patients who were taking a LABAs and found that 3,043 of those patients were using it as monotherapy.  While 21 percent of patients treated by an asthma-related specialist, suc
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SOURCE Medco Health Solutions, Inc.
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