Boehringer Ingelheim’s Spiriva — a drug approved for emphysema and chronic lung conditions — was shown to be just as effective as GlaxoSmithKline’s asthma drug Serevent and more effective than a double dose of inhaled steroids, according to new research published in the New England Journal of Medicine. In a 14-week study of 210 people with uncontrolled asthma, taking Spiriva gave patients an additional 48 days with no asthma symptoms, while Serevent gave them an extra 51 days, and doubling the dose of steroid medication only gave them an extra 19 symptom-free days.
“This outcome is a bit surprising, since this type of medication has not been heavily utilized in asthma flare-ups before,” says ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross. “The addition of Spiriva to the anti-asthma pharmacopeia may be a significant boon to asthma sufferers, as side-effects of inhaled anti-cholinergics are minimal, while there has been some concern about long-acting beta-agonists such as Serevent. However, as the Journal editorial states, given the small number of patients, this study should be considered preliminary. It needs to be replicated before inspiring a major change in practice.”