Medical Therapy for Asthma: Updates from the NAEPP Guidelines

November 2010
American Family Physician;11/15/2010, Vol. 82 Issue 10, p1242
Academic Journal
Proper care of patients with asthma involves the triad of systematic chronic care plans, self-management support, and appropriate medical therapy. Controller medications (inhaled corticosteroids, long-acting beta2 agonists, and leukotriene receptor antagonists) are the foundation of care for persistent asthma and should be taken daily on a long-term basis to achieve and maintain control of symptoms. Inhaled corticosteroids are the preferred controller medication; studies have demonstrated that when inhaled corticosteroids are used consistently, they improve asthma control more effectively than any other single long-term control medication. Combining long-acting beta2 agonists and inhaled corticosteroids is effective and safe when inhaled corticosteroids alone are insufficient, and such combinations are an alternative to increasing the dosage of inhaled corticosteroids. For patients with mild persistent asthma, leukotriene receptor antagonists are an alternative, second-line treatment option. They are easy to use, have high rates of compliance, and can provide good symptom control in many patients. Leukotriene receptor antagonists can also be used as an adjunctive therapy with inhaled corticosteroids, but for persons 12 years and older the addition of long-acting beta2 agonists is preferred. Inhaled short-acting beta2 agonists are the most effective therapy for rapid reversal of airflow obstruction and prompt relief of asthmatic symptoms. Increasing the use of short-acting beta2 agonists or using them more than two days per week or more than two nights per month generally indicates inadequate control of asthma and the need to initiate or intensify anti-inflammatory therapy. Oral systemic corticosteroids should be used to treat moderate to severe asthma exacerbations.


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