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Some experts believe that using a LABA drug alone can mask developing symptoms, and unexpectedly get patients in trouble. That's why medical guidelines call for LABA medications to be used along with a steroid.
In preparation for the meeting, the FDA analyzed findings from 110 clinical trials involving nearly 61,000 patients, comparing patients who took a medication containing a LABA with those who used a steroid alone to control their asthma. Experts looked for deaths, hospitalizations and cases in which a patient had to have a breathing tube inserted.
The analysis found 20 deaths from asthma complications, of which 16 were in patients taking a LABA-only drug, Serevent.
Advair, a widely used medication made by GlaxoSmithKline, did not appear to have a higher rate of serious complications when compared with treatment on steroids only. Foradil, Serevent and Symbicort all had higher rates of problems, but the increase was statistically significant only in the case of Serevent.
About 22 million people in the United States suffer from asthma, and children account for nearly one out of every three patients. Asthma claims nearly 3,600 lives a year in the U.S.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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