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Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2004;(1):CD001384.

Ketotifen alone or as additional medication for long-term control of asthma and wheeze in children.

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Institute of Medical Biometry and Medical Informatics, Stefan-Meier-Str. 26, Freiburg, Germany.



Ketotifen is an antihistamine which may be used to treat asthma. Since administering inhaled therapy to younger children can be difficult, an oral agent such as ketotifen offers potential advantages.


The objective of this review is to determine, whether ketotifen alone or in combination with other co-interventions results in better control of asthma in children with asthma and/or wheezing and examine its safety profile.


We searched the Cochrane Airways Group register of trials (based on MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL and handsearched respiratory journals) and reference lists of articles. The latest search was carried out in October 2002.


Clinical studies had to be randomised-controlled and double-blinded, comparing oral ketotifen with placebo in children with asthma and/or wheeze for at least eight weeks at a dose not less than one mg daily.


Two reviewers independently performed selection of trials, quality assessment and data extraction; a third reviewer was included in the consensus process if necessary.


A total of 26 relevant studies involving 1826 participants were included in this review. Children's age ranged from 4 months to 18 years and ketotifen was given between 10 and 32 weeks. The proportion of children able to reduce or stop their bronchodilator use within 12 to 16 weeks of treatment was significantly higher in the ketotifen group (relative risk 2.39, 95% CI 1.64 to 3.48) based on four trials; this result was statistically significant in a subgroup of two trials with well described and adequate method of blinding. Statistically significant beneficial effects of ketotifen were also observed in the following secondary outcomes: efficacy evaluated by physician (10 trials) and parents/patients (7 trials), asthma symptom score (4 trials), asthma exacerbations (2 trials), and reduction in use of oral steroids (4 trials). However, sub-group analyses of trials with well described and adequate method of blinding was only significant for the outcome asthma symptom score and non-significant for the remaining secondary outcomes. Reported side effects were more frequent in the ketotifen group (sedation: 21%, weight gain: 27%) than in the placebo group (sedation: 12%, weight gain: 17%).


Evidence from randomised controlled trials indicates that ketotifen alone or in combination with other co-interventions improves control of asthma and wheezing in children with mild and moderate asthma. However due to the high proportion of children with atopy in some trials the results cannot necessarily be generalised to all asthmatic children. The benefit is obtained at the cost of minor side effects, namely sedation and weight gain. The validity of this conclusion is limited by the low reported, methodological quality of included trials.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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