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Panel Critical of FDA's Asthma Drug Ruling

Experts Concerned About Limits on Long-Acting Asthma Drugs Such as Serevent and Foradil

Asthma Attacks Down Since LABAs Introduced continued...

Robert Lemanske, Jr., MD, head of the division of pediatric allergy, immunology, and rheumatology at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison, tells WebMD that he is concerned that the FDA ruling will result in kids taking higher doses of inhaled steroids than necessary.

"As a pediatrician, anything I can do to limit doses of inhaled steroids, which can cause problems with growth, is very very important," he says.

Studies show that by adding a LABA, you can lower the dose of inhaled steroid by about 50%, Lemanske says.

Most importantly, the panel agrees, no one -- adults and kids alike -- should stop taking a LABA without consulting their doctor. That, they say, can be deadly.

No one exactly knows when LABAs can be discontinued, Busse says, "But you don’t just turn them off as soon as you achieve control."

Inhaled steroids, the mainstay of asthma treatment, reduce airway inflammation and mucus production, leading to better asthma control, fewer symptoms and flare-ups, and reduced hospitalizations. But they do not relieve asthma symptoms you already have.

LABAs relax muscles in the lung's airways, improving a patient's ability to breathe freely and reducing asthma symptoms.

LABAs are approved to treat both people with asthma or with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The new recommendations only apply to the use of LABAs in the treatment of asthma. 

The panel says it hopes to perform further studies to better define if and when LABAs can be discontinued. And the FDA is requiring LABA makers to perform additional studies of the drugs' safety.

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