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Allergy Asthma Clin Immunol. 2006 Sep 15;2(3):109-16. doi: 10.1186/1710-1492-2-3-109. Epub 2006 Sep 15.

The Difficult-to-Control Asthmatic: A Systematic Approach.

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Division of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, The Scripps Clinic and the Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, CA.


With the judicious use of inhaled corticosteroids, beta2 agonists, and leukotriene modifiers, most patients with asthma are easily controlled and managed. However, approximately 5% of asthmatics do not respond to standard therapy and are classified as "difficult to control." 1 Typically, these are patients who complain of symptoms interfering with daily living despite long-term treatment with inhaled corticosteroids in doses up to 2,000 mug daily. Many factors can contribute to poor response to conventional therapy, and especially for these patients, a systematic approach is needed to identify the underlying causes. First, the diagnosis of asthma and adherence to the medication regimen should be confirmed. Next, potential persisting exacerbating triggers need to be identified and addressed. Concomitant disorders should be discovered and treated. Lastly, the impact and implications of socioeconomic and psychological factors on disease control can be significant and should be acknowledged and discussed with the individual patient. Less conventional and novel strategies for treating corticosteroid-resistant asthma do exist. However, their use is based on small studies that do not meet evidence-based criteria; therefore, it is essential to sort through and address the above issues before reverting to other therapy.

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