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Experts Warn Against Drugs That Combine Asthma Medications

August 24, 2006

Yvonne Lee - All Headline News Staff Reporter

Washington, D.C. (AHN) - Asthma experts at the University of Iowa renew earlier warnings about medications that combine salmeterol with an inhaled corticosteroid.

The Iowa doctors say that in some patients, the combination of the medications in drugs such as Advair can make asthma more severe, or even fatal.

The experts describe two cases handled by Iowa doctors in a letter to the "New England Journal of Medicine."

Two patients who had used salmeterol were suffering from life-threatening problems. After they switched to a different medication, their asthma was brought under control.

Dr. Miles Weinberger, professor of pediatrics, says, "For most patients whose asthma cannot be controlled with a low-dose inhaled steroid, adding salmeterol to the steroid provides increased benefits. So there's no question this can be a useful combination drug for many individuals."

He adds, "However, some patients are receiving the combination drug but don't actually need it, and there is at least a small subgroup of patients for whom previous research showed the salmeterol-steroid combination has a very negative, rather than beneficial effect."

Advair is one of the most widely-prescribed asthma drugs in the United States. Weinberger says it should be used to treat sudden asthma attacks, and not used on a regular, preventative basis.


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