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Clinical Investigations: BRONCHODILATORS |

Safety of Long-term Treatment With HFA Albuterol*

Joe W. Ramsdell, MD; Nancy M. Klinger, BS; Bruce P. Ekholm, MS; Gene L. Colice, MD, FCCP
Author and Funding Information

*From the Department of Medicine (Dr. Ramsdell), University of California, San Diego Medical Center, San Diego, CA; and 3M Pharmaceuticals (Ms. Klinger, Mr. Ekholm, and Dr. Colice), St. Paul, MN.



Chest. 1999;115(4):945-951. doi:10.1378/chest.115.4.945
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Background: Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) used as propellants in metered-dose inhalers deplete stratospheric ozone, which results in serious public health concerns. Albuterol has been reformulated in the non-ozone-depleting propellant, hydrofluoroalkane-134a (HFA albuterol).

Objectives: The primary objective was to compare the safety of HFA albuterol to an albuterol product formulated in chlorofluorocarbon propellants (CFC albuterol) during 1 year of treatment in asthmatics. Bronchodilator efficacy of the two products was assessed as a secondary objective.

Methods: The results from two open-label, parallel-group trials of similar design in asthmatics requiring short-acting β-agonists for symptom control were combined. Patients took two puffs bid of either HFA albuterol or CFC albuterol for 1 year. Additional puffs of study drug were allowed as needed to control asthma symptoms. Adverse events were recorded at clinic visits. Patients self-administered study drug at quarterly visits and underwent serial spirometry during a 6-h period postdose. Bronchodilator efficacy variables, based on FEV1 response to study drug, were proportion of responders, time to onset of effect, peak percent change, time to peak effect, duration of effect, and area under the curve. Differences between products and changes over time in efficacy variables were assessed using an analysis of variance model. Regression analyses with FEV1 as a covariate were performed post-hoc to analyze changes in bronchodilator efficacy over time.

Results: Demographic and baseline characteristics were similar for patients receiving HFA albuterol (n = 337) and CFC albuterol (n = 132). Total reported adverse events were similar for the two treatments. Differences in only four individual adverse events were noted: the HFA albuterol group reported more gastroenteritis and dizziness; the CFC albuterol group reported more epistaxis and expectoration. Adverse events attributed to study drug use were infrequent. No serious adverse events were related to study drug use. Predose FEV1 at quarterly visits increased to a small extent in both groups from month 0 to month 12. The bronchodilator efficacy of HFA albuterol was comparable to that of CFC albuterol at the quarterly visits, but decreased from baseline for both products over the 12 months of treatment. Use of inhaled corticosteroids, nasal corticosteroids, or theophylline did not explain the increase in predose FEV1 over time and did not protect patients from developing reduced bronchodilator efficacy by month 12. The change in predose FEV1 did not entirely account for the reduced bronchodilator efficacy over time.

Conclusions: HFA albuterol has a safety profile similar to that of CFC albuterol during chronic, scheduled use, and both drugs are well tolerated. HFA albuterol and CFC albuterol provided comparable bronchodilator efficacy, but bronchodilator efficacy decreased for both products with 1 year of use.

Abbreviations: AUC = area under the curve; CFC = chlorofluorocarbon; CFC albuterol = albuterol formulated in chlorofluorocarbon propellants: FDA = Food and Drug Administration; HFA = hydrofluoroalkane-134a; HFA albuterol = albuterol formulated in propellant hydrofluoroalkane-134a; MDI = metered-dose inhaler

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