WASHINGTON (AP) _ An asthma medicine that doctors hope will make it easier for patients to adhere to their therapy took a step toward the market Tuesday as government advisers recommended approval of Advair.

Advair is not actually a new drug. It merely combines into one inhaler device two existing asthma treatments _ the long-acting inhaled bronchodilator Serevent that helps keep airways open and the inhaled corticosteroid Flovent that fights inflammation.

Manufacturer Glaxo Wellcome estimates about 12 percent of asthmatics already take both medicines, a number that has doubled in recent years as more doctors recommend combination therapy to prevent asthma attacks.

But Glaxo contends having to use just one inhaler device instead of two would encourage more patients to use combination asthma therapy daily. So it created Advair.

On Tuesday, advisers to the Food and Drug Administration unanimously recommended approving Advair, saying the combined product works as well as inhaling both medicines from separate devices, but probably is easier to use. The FDA is not bound by its advisers' recommendations, but typically follows them.

Unlike typical aerosol asthma inhalers, Advair would come in a ``diskus'' device about the size of a cosmetic compact, with blister packs containing each dose of powdered medication. Patients could inhale the powder in several breaths.

The FDA and its advisers, however, expressed some concern that the device doesn't allow doctors to raise a patient's steroid dose as easily as they do now. With traditional aerosol inhalers, patients might just take another puff, but doing that with Advair would give patients too much Serevent, warned Dr. Robert Meyer, FDA's pulmonary drugs chief.