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Eur Respir J. 2011 Sep;38(3):584-93. doi: 10.1183/09031936.00186510. Epub 2011 Mar 15.

Effect of different asthma treatments on risk of cold-related exacerbations.

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Woolcock Institute of Medical Research, Australia.

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  • Eur Respir J. 2012 May;39(5):1280.


Common colds often trigger asthma exacerbations. The present study compared cold-related severe exacerbations during budesonide/formoterol maintenance and reliever therapy, and different regimens of maintenance inhaled corticosteroids (ICS), with or without long-acting β(2)-agonists (LABA), and with as-needed short-acting β(2)-agonists (SABA) or LABA. Reported colds and severe exacerbations (defined by oral corticosteroid use and/or hospitalisation/emergency room visit) were assessed for 12,507 patients during 6-12 months of double-blind treatment. Exacerbations occurring ≤14 days after onset of reported colds were analysed by a Poisson model. The incidence of colds was similar across treatments. Asthma symptoms and reliever use increased during colds. Budesonide/formoterol maintenance and reliever therapy reduced severe cold-related exacerbations by 36% versus pooled comparators plus SABA (rate ratio (RR) 0.64; p=0.002), and for individual treatment comparisons, by 52% versus the same maintenance dose of ICS/LABA (RR 0.48; p<0.001); there were nonsignificant reductions versus higher maintenance doses of ICS or ICS/LABA (RR 0.83 and 0.72, respectively). As-needed LABA did not reduce cold-related exacerbations versus as-needed SABA (RR 0.96). Severe cold-related exacerbations were reduced by budesonide/formoterol maintenance and reliever therapy compared with ICS with or without LABA and with as-needed SABA. Subanalyses suggested the importance of the ICS component in reducing cold-related exacerbations. Future studies should document the cause of exacerbations, in order to allow identification of different treatment effects.

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