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Chest. 1999 Mar;115(3):623-8.

A bolus of inhaled budesonide rapidly reverses airway subsensitivity and beta2-adrenoceptor down-regulation after regular inhaled formoterol.

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  • 1Department of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Ninewells Hospital and Medical School, Dundee, Scotland, UK.



Subsensitivity of airway beta2-adrenoceptors develops readily in asthmatics receiving regular long-acting beta2-agonists. This subsensitivity may be rapidly reversed by using systemic corticosteroids. The purpose of the present study was to investigate whether the same acute facilitatory effects occur when using a bolus dose of inhaled corticosteroid.


Ten subjects with stable mild-to-moderate asthma, with a mean age of 27 years, mean (+/- SD) FEV1 of 2.95 L (0.94 L), 81% (15%) of predicted, all receiving inhaled corticosteroids, reactive to adenosine monophosphate (AMP) with a provocative concentration producing a 20% fall in FEV1 (PC20) < 200 mg/mL, were recruited into a randomized double-blind crossover study. The subjects received two separate 1-week treatment periods with formoterol dry powder, 24 microg bid, with an initial 1-week run-in and a 1-week washout period between the treatments. A single dose of placebo or budesonide turbuhaler, 1,600 microg, was taken in conjunction with the last dose of both treatment periods. AMP challenge was performed 2 h after the first and last dose of formoterol. Blood for lymphocyte beta2-adrenoceptor density (Bmax) was also measured before and after treatment with formoterol.


There was no significant difference in the geometric mean PC20 after the first dose of formoterol comparing the two treatment periods: 362 mg/mL vs 391 mg/mL. The PC20 after the last dose of formoterol was significantly higher (p < 0.05) in conjunction with budesonide than with placebo: 427 mg/mL vs 99 mg/mL, amounting to a 4.3-fold difference (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.1 to 16.6). For comparison within each treatment period, there was significant subsensitivity (p < 0.05) between the first and last dose of formoterol when the latter was given with placebo: 391 mg/mL vs 99 mg/mL, a 3.9-fold fall (95% CI, 1.0 to 15.2), but not when the latter was given with budesonide: 362 mg/mL vs 427 mg/mL, a 1.2-fold rise (95% CI, 0.5 to 2.8). Lymphocyte 02-adrenoceptor density (geometric mean Bmax: fmol/10(6) cells) also showed significant down-regulation (p < 0.05) by formoterol given with placebo: preformoterol 2.53 vs postformoterol 1.91, but not by formoterol given with budesonide: preformoterol 2.43 vs postformoterol 2.67. The Bmax was significantly higher (p < 0.05) with formoterol + budesonide as compared to formoterol + placebo, amounting to a 1.40-fold difference (95% CI, 1.09 to 1.80).


We have shown that a bolus dose of inhaled budesonide rapidly reverses subsensitivity to AMP bronchoprotection and associated beta2-adrenoceptor down-regulation in asthmatics taking regular formoterol. Further studies are indicated to assess whether high-dose inhaled corticosteroids should be administered as soon as possible along with beta2-agonists during an acute episode of bronchoconstriction.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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