Leading Article

Treatments in Respiratory Medicine

, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp 133-137

First online:

Cost Advantages of Combination Asthma Therapy

  • Debbie A. CampbellAffiliated withRoyal Brompton and Harefield NHS Trust
  • , Douglas S. RobinsonAffiliated withDepartment of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, National Heart and Lung Institute, Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College Email author 

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The addition of long-acting β2-adrenoceptor agonist (LABA) therapy to ‘low dose’ inhaled corticosteroids improves asthma outcomes in terms of lung function, exacerbation rates, and quality of life measures in asthmatic patients who remain symptomatic on low-dose inhaled corticosteroids alone. Such treatment is now included in guidelines of asthma therapy on the basis of class A evidence from large placebo-controlled trials. Data on the cost-benefit of such treatment is less compelling, but suggests that for patients with mild asthma this clinical improvement is gained at the expense of an increase in direct costs (mostly drug costs), whereas for patients with more severe asthma there may be a cost benefit, largely from reduced costs of exacerbations. Recently, combination inhalers containing both LABA and corticosteroid in the same device have been introduced. Although it is said that a single inhaler (with some immediate symptom relief) may aid patient adherence, there are no firm data to support this, nor are there any cost-effectiveness data on this point. Overall, these devices have been priced at less than the two drugs given separately, but prospective studies evaluating costs in clinical settings are required.