Background Oral leukotriene receptor antagonists have been shown to have efficacy in chronic asthma.
Objective To determine whether the addition of montelukast could lead to a reduction in inhaled corticosteroid dose without a significant decrease in peak expiratory flow rate (PEFR).
Methods After a 4-week run-in period, 191 moderate-to-severe asthmatic patients whose asthma had been well controlled with daily inhaled corticosteroid therapy (beclometasone dipropionate 800 to 1600 µg/day), were randomly assigned to one of two treatments – placebo (n = 98) or montelukast 10 mg once daily (n = 93) – for a 24-week, multicentre, double-blind, treatment period. At the beginning of the active treatment period, the daily dose of inhaled corticosteroid was halved in all of the patients. In addition, the inhaled corticosteroid dose was subsequently titrated every 8 weeks, based on PEFR, asthma symptoms and β-agonist use.
Results After 8 weeks of a 50% reduction in inhaled corticosteroid use, morning PEFR increased by 5.3 ± 32.3 L/min from baseline in patients receiving montelukast and significantly decreased by 6.9 ± 29.0 L/min in those receiving placebo (P = 0.035). In addition, evening PEFR significantly decreased by 9.8 ± 28.5 L/min (P = 0.003) in the placebo group, but was maintained in the montelukast group. In spite of a subsequent 50% reduction in the inhaled corticosteroid dose every 8 weeks, morning and evening PEFRs were maintained over the 24-week treatment period in the montelukast group; PEFR significantly decreased in the placebo group. There was a significant difference between the two groups with regard to morning PEFR, therapy score and asthmatic score at weeks 8, 16 and 24, as well as evening PEFR at week 8. However, the symptom scores were not significantly different between the two groups or within each group.
Conclusion These data suggest that montelukast reduces the need for inhaled corticosteroids while maintaining asthma control over a 24-week period. Therefore, montelukast may be useful for long-term treatment in patients with asthma who require high doses of inhaled corticosteroids.