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New Asthma Drug Effective and Long-Lasting, Study Finds

May 11, 1994

CHICAGO (AP) _ A new asthma inhalant drug works better at preventing attacks and lasts longer than a widely used medication, researchers say.

The new drug, salmeterol xinafoate, was recently approved for marketing in the United States under the brand name Serevent. It is manufactured by British-based Glaxo Holdings PLC, one of the world’s largest drug companies.

Researchers reporting in Wednesday’s issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association compared the drug’s effectiveness with albuterol and a placebo among 280 asthmatics ages 12 and up.

Albuterol is a widely used drug taken by inhalation for treatment of asthma and sold under brand names including Proventil and Ventolin.

Patients who took a single dose of salmeterol xinafoate had substantially less obstructed breathing for 12 hours than patients who took a placebo or two doses of albuterol spaced six hours apart, the researchers said.

″This study provides further evidence that inhaled salmeterol is an effective treatment for the long-term control of both daytime and nighttime symptoms of asthma,″ said the researchers, led by Dr. Gilbert E. D’Alonzo of Temple University School of Medicine in Phildelphia.

D’Alonzo was with the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston when the study began.

Salmeterol caused no major side effects, and improved asthma control lasted throughout the 12-week study, the researchers said.

Dr. Roger C. Bone, president of the Medical College of Ohio in Toledo, said salmeterol is ″potentially a very, very important drug,″ but cautioned that overuse could be toxic.

Bone, who did not participate in the study, said the new drug’s 12-hour effectiveness can solve the problem of nighttime asthma attacks.

″The worst time for the asthmatic patient is usually 3 or 4 in the morning. ... They wake up wheezing. More deaths occur at that time than any other time,″ said Bone.

But it should never be used to stop an acute attack because it doesn’t take effect immediately, he said. If a patient thinks the drug isn’t working, he might take additional doses and overdose, Bone said.

Patients should continue to use albuterol or similar drugs for acute attacks, he said.

Dr. Renee Lantner, a Loyola University Medical Center assistant professor who has prescribed salmeterol, said it takes 30 to 45 minutes to start working, compared with 5 to 15 minutes for albuterol.

″The drug is much longer acting than albuterol,″ she said. ″It has also been shown to be helpful for people with exercise-induced asthma.″

Bone said it probably would be inappropriate for people with the mildest asthma.

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