Deadly asthma exacerbations could be stopped or reduced by temporarily quadrupling the dose of inhaled steroids, according to a study led by asthma experts at the University of Nottingham.
Since asthma is one of the most common chronic diseases worldwide, researchers launched a new clinical trial to figure out if a higher dose of steroids could prevent or reduce acute episodes that are often both frightening and costly for patients. The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that patients in the U.K. who quadrupled their dose of inhaled steroids during asthmatic episodes saw a 20 percent reduction in severe asthma attacks over a 12-month period.
“The study is good news for asthma sufferers all over the world as it shows how patients can better manage their condition and ultimately improve their quality of life,” Hywel Williams, Director of the National Institute for Health Research’s Health Technology Assessment (HTA) Program, said in a statement.
Previous research at the University of Nottingham found that doubling the dose of inhaled steroids during severe asthma attacks did not prevent the frequency of such incidents, so this new study was done to explore if quadrupling the dose would have a more positive outcome.
The study, funded by the Health Technology Assessment Programme of the National Institute for Health, involved nearly 2000 patient volunteers in England and Scotland. About half the patients were randomly assigned to the plan that prescribed a quadrupling of inhaled steroid during asthma attacks and the other half followed a standard treatment plan over 12 months.
In addition to seeing a reduction in severe asthma attacks, patients who quadrupled their dose of inhaled steroids also made fewer trips to the emergency room for asthma-related breathing problems. Just 3 participants in the quadrupling group spent time in the hospital compared with 18 in the other group.
“Our study shows that patients can reduce the risk of a severe asthma attack by following a self-management plan which includes a temporary four-fold increase in their preventer medication when their asthma is deteriorating. This means less need for oral steroids such as prednisolone, less admissions to hospital with severe asthma and hopefully fewer deaths from asthma,” Professor of Asthma and Respiratory Medicine Tim Harrison, from the University’s School of Medicine, and the NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, said in a statement.