Asthma Pill Cuts Intermittent Flare-ups in Kids

Singulair reduced exacerbations caused by infections, need for corticosteroids

Serena Gordon

Serena Gordon

Updated on February 16, 2005

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 16, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Singulair, an oral asthma drug, can reduce symptoms in youngsters who have intermittent asthma flare-ups linked to infection, a new study reports.

After taking Singulair (montelukast) for 12 months, the children in the study had a 32 percent reduced rate of asthma exacerbations, while their use of inhaled corticosteroid medications was reduced by 40 percent.

"For the first time ever, an option for treatment of viral-induced intermittent asthma has proven effective," said study author Dr. Hans Bisgaard, a professor of pediatrics at Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark.

Results of the study appear in the Feb. 15 issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Singulair is a leukotrine receptor antagonist; it's the first drug in this new class of asthma medications designed to stop the airway inflammation associated with asthma before it starts.

For many people with intermittent asthma, viral infections, such as a cold, trigger inflammation and asthma symptoms. In fact, according to the study authors, viral infections may be responsible for up to 85 percent of asthma symptoms and exacerbations.

"Viral upper respiratory infections are a big asthma trigger. Often, people only have asthma symptoms when they have a viral infection," explained Dr. Clifford Bassett, a fellow of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, and medical director of Allergy and Asthma Care of New York in New York City.

Bassett said this study was especially interesting because it looked at treatment for intermittent asthma, whereas most studies focus on more severe, persistent asthma.

Bisgaard and his colleagues included about 550 children between the ages of 2 and 5. The children were from 68 different health-care sites and 23 countries. All had a history of intermittent asthma symptoms.

Two hundred and seventy-eight youngsters were given montelukast daily for a year. They were given the standard dose of either 4 milligrams or 5 milligrams, depending on their age.

The remaining 271 youngsters were given a placebo.

The youngsters taking montelukast had 31.9 percent fewer asthma exacerbations and 31.6 percent fewer asthma episodes. The children receiving the medication needed to take inhaled corticosteroids 40 percent less than children on placebo. The rate of oral corticosteroid use was reduced 17.5 percent in the montelukast group, compared to placebo.

According to Bisgaard, montelukast was well-tolerated in this study, and other studies haven't shown any long-term side effects.

The study was funded by Merck and Co., the maker of Singulair.

"Montelukast is very easy to use, and people like that it's an oral medication," Bassett said.

Bisgaard and Bassett agreed that further study is necessary, particularly to see if taking montelukast at the first sign of a viral infection can control asthma as well as when taking the drug long-term.

Bassett added that people with asthma, or parents of children with asthma, should make sure they have an asthma action plan.

"Talk with your doctor before anything happens, don't wait until Saturday night at three o'clock in the morning. Have preset instructions and medications on hand," Bassett said.

More information

To learn more about what triggers asthma and how to manage it, visit the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

Read this Next
About UsOur ProductsCustom SolutionsHow it’s SoldOur ResultsDeliveryContact UsBlogPrivacy PolicyFAQ