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Indian J Pediatr. 2000 Feb;67(2):147-53.

Asthma--the changing face of drug therapy.

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  • 1Institute of Child Health, Southampton University, U.K.


Until the recent introduction of long acting beta 2-agonists and the leukotriene antagonists, the drug treatment of asthma had remained largely unchanged for a quarter century. Recent studies have demonstrated the efficacy of the long acting beta 2-agonists in the management of asthma in children and highlighted their value as an adjunct to inhaled corticosteroids. The leukotriene antagonists are an important new class of drug therapy which target a specific area of asthma pathogenesis. Whilst they have been shown to be effective for asthma, their exact role in the clinical situation remains to be established. Recent guidelines have emphasised the important role of inflammation in persistent asthma and recommended the early institution of anti-inflammatory treatment. Many patients remain uncontrolled despite high doses of anti-inflammatory agents including oral corticosteroids. Recent experience with other immunomodulatory agents such as cyclosporin, methotrexate and intravenous immunoglobulin has highlighed their potential as steroid sparing agents. With improved understanding of asthma pathogenesis the potential for specific targeted therapies has become evident. Monoclonal antibodies to IgE and certain cytokines are being investigated as possible treatments for asthma. Similarly, preliminary studies of selective phosphodiesterase inhibitors in asthmatic individuals have been encouraging. Other potential therapies include platelet-activating factor receptor antagonists, tryptase inhibitors and prostaglandin E analogs. The continued development of such targeted treatments should ensure a greater diversity of therapeutic options for the management of asthma in the new millennium.

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