• asthma;
  • beclomethasone;
  • cysteinyl leukotrienes;
  • inhaled corticosteroids;
  • montelukast;
  • tolerance;
  • treatment adherence

Background Leukotriene receptor antagonists have demonstrated clinical benefits in chronic asthma studies of up to 3 months in duration. The effects of these agents over extended periods of time have not been reported.

Objective To describe the long-term effect of oral montelukast, a potent and specific cysteinyl leukotriene receptor antagonist, compared with inhaled corticosteroids in both adult and paediatric patients with chronic asthma.

Methods Male and female patients with chronic, stable asthma (adults aged 15–85 years, children aged 6–14 years), who had completed double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical studies, participated in three extension studies with oral montelukast taken once daily (10 mg tablet for adults, 5 mg chewable tablet for paediatric patients) or inhaled corticosteroids (beclomethasone 200 μg twice daily for adults, beclomethasone 100 μg or equivalent three times daily for children). A double-blind adult extension study was 37 weeks in duration; open-label adult extension studies were 156 (adults) and 112 (paediatric) weeks in duration. A total of 436, 374, and 245 patients entered these extension studies, respectively.

Results Treatment with both montelukast and inhaled corticosteroids resulted in improvement in multiple parameters of asthma control. Improvements in daytime symptom scores were generally comparable among treatment groups. No tachyphylaxis to the effects of montelukast was evident. In the adult open-label study, however, the effect of beclomethasone on mean forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1) gradually decreased from start of the study to the end of the follow-up treatment period.

Conclusion Both montelukast and inhaled corticosteroids were effective in controlling mild to moderate chronic asthma; the relative effectiveness of montelukast and beclomethasone were similar in open-label conditions. The hypothesis, that clinical practice conditions (e.g., adherence) may have a significant impact on the effectiveness of these therapies, should be tested in future clinical trials.