Study objective: Adding inhaled long-acting β2-agonists to a low dose of inhaled corticosteroids (ICSs) results in better asthma control than increasing the dose of ICSs. An important, but as yet unresolved, question is whether this is due to an additional reduction of airway inflammation.
Design: Double-blind, parallel-group trial.
Patients: Forty asthma patients (FEV1, 50 to 90% predicted; provocative concentration of a substance [methacholine] causing a 20% fall in FEV1 of < 8 mg/mL; no ICSs in the last 4 weeks).
Interventions: Randomization to 8 weeks of treatment with 100 μg of budesonide bid plus placebo (BUD200) or 100 μg of budesonide bid plus 12 μg of formoterol (BUD200 + F). Then the dose of budesonide (BUD) was increased to 400 μg bid in both groups for another 8 weeks. Bronchial biopsy specimens were collected before, and after 8 and 16 weeks of treatment. Eosinophils (major basic protein [MBP]) and mast cells (tryptase) were analyzed by immunohistochemistry.
Results: BUD200 reduced the MBP staining (p = 0.008) and tryptase staining (p = 0.048) in the epithelium compared to baseline levels. There were no significant differences between the BUD200 and BUD200 + F groups. In both groups, increasing the dosage of BUD to 800 μg had no significant additional antiinflammatory effect.
Conclusions: Our results demonstrate that BUD administered at a low dose has significant antiinflammatory effects in patients with mild asthma. No significant additional antiinflammatory effects could be demonstrated either by adding formoterol or by increasing the dose of BUD.