Asthma — The changing face of drug therapy
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Until the recent introduction of long acting p2-agonists and the leukotriene antagonists, the drug treatment of asthma had remained largely unchanged for a quarter century. Recent studies have demonstrated the efficacy of the long acting pjagonists in the management of asthma in children and highlighted their value as an adjunct to inhaled corticosteroids. The leukotriene antagonists are an important new class of drug therapy which target a specific area of asthma pathogenesis. Whilst they have been shown to be effective for asthma, their exact role in the clinical situation remains to be established. Recent guidelines have emphasised the important role of inflammation in persistent asthma and recommended the early institution of anti-inflammatory treatment. Many patients remain uncontrolled despite high doses of anti-inflammatory agents including oral corticosteroids. Recent experience with other immunomodulatory agents such as cyclosporin, methotrexate and intravenous immunoglobulin has highlighed their potential as steroid sparing agents.
With improved understanding of asthma pathogenesis the potential for specific targeted therapies has become evident. Monoclonal antibodies to IgE and certain cytokines are being investigated as possible treatments for asthma. Similarly, preliminary studies of selective phosphodiesterase inhibitors in asthmatic individuals have been encouraging. Other potential therapies include platelet-activating factor receptor antagonists, tryptase inhibitors and prostaglandin E analogs. The continued development of such targetea1 treatments should ensure a greater diversity of therapeutic options for the management of asthma in the new millennium.
Key wordsLeukotriene antagonists Tryptase inhibitors Asthma
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