The Pill That Could Stop Asthma Attacks

Leukotriene-receptor antagonists may prevent asthma attacks in adults, teens

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Asthma patients who find themselves reaching for their inhalers all too often may now have another treatment option — in the form of a pill.

A new study from Greece found that leukotriene-receptor antagonists (LTRAs) may significantly improve asthma control and effectively prevent asthma attacks in adults and teens. Until now, these drugs were thought to be less effective than inhaled corticosteroids for treating asthma.

"[LTRAs] improved asthma control compared with placebo, but which patients are most likely to respond to treatment with LTRAs remains unclear," wrote lead study author Michael Miligkos, MD, of the University of Thessaly, and colleagues.

Asthma is a chronic lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways, which can make breathing difficult. An estimated 300 million patients have asthma worldwide.

LTRAs — such as montelukast (brand name Singulair) and zafirlukast (Zuvair) — are non-steroidal oral medications that work by blocking a chemical reaction that can lead to airway inflammation.

However, inhaled corticosteroids remain the preferred treatment for most asthma patients.

According to Dr. Miligkos and team, LTRAs may offer an advantage over inhaled medications because they come in pill form and are not associated with the adverse effects of long-term corticosteroid use.

For this study, Dr. Miligkos and team looked at the findings of 34 past studies on LTRAs.

LTRAs were found to reduce the risk of asthma attacks by 40 percent. When used alongside inhaled corticosteroids, they reduced this risk by 20 percent.

No significant differences in adverse effects were found for patients on LTRAs.

Dr. Miligkos and team concluded that LTRAs may be an effective and safe treatment for asthma control.

This study was published Sept. 21 in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

The National Institutes of Health funded this research.

Study author Dr. Bannuru disclosed funding from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
September 18, 2015
Last Updated:
September 21, 2015