Remember When We Used to Prescribe Inhaled Steroids for Asthma and COPD?

Press Release: Annual Conference of the Universal College of Chest Physicians October 2085; New Chicago, Mars.

The annual conference enjoyed another record attendance today as attendees flocked to Dr. Ramachandran III’rds keynote address reviewing exploits of physicians in the early part of the century. Dr. Ramachandran highlighted some key decisions and their consequences, such as the ACGME’s decree in 2032 that all residents should be swaddled before their scheduled hourly nap times. This of course led to the now infamous Great Hospital Apocalypses of 2033, 2034, and 2035.

Perhaps nearly as intriguing was the plight of inhaled corticosteroids for the treatment of respiratory diseases like asthma and COPD in the beginning of the 21st century. The period began with greater awareness and concern regarding the use of long acting beta agonist (LABA) bronchodilators such salmeterol. That risk was highlighted by findings published in the SMART trial (access through Chest archives here). There was increased concern regarding the potential harm caused by LABA which culminated in the placement of warnings on medications which contained LABA bronchodilators. These medications, experts said, were to be prescribed with extreme caution because of the possible increase in harm, particularly among children.

Scholars of the early 21st century thus highly recommended that asthmatics, especially children, be started on steroid inhalers before having to resort to using inhaled LABAs. Many also theorized that inhaled steroids had a protective effect when combined with LABA’s, possibly ameliorating their potential danger. Thus many at the time recommended a strategy of not using LABA inhalers at all, unless also simultaneously prescribing an inhaled steroid.

However, problems with this approach started to appear late in the first decade of the century. The TORCH study, a trial using combined inhaled LABA/inhaled steroids in adults with COPD suggested that there was an increased incidence of pneumonia among those treated with inhaled steroids. Early in the second decade a pivotal study then demonstrated that asthmatic children treated with inhaled steroids ended up being about half an inch shorter than they might have otherwise been (interestingly, a later study in 2035  correlated the reduced height with a statistically significant decrease in NBA dunking). Continue reading “Remember When We Used to Prescribe Inhaled Steroids for Asthma and COPD?”

In Asthma vs. Ozone Layer, Ozone Layer Wins.



I have a confession to make, it pains me to write this post, about the removal of over-the-counter epinephrine (a.k.a. primatene) inhalers, the only inhaler available to asthmatics without a prescription. I mean, it literally causes me a visceral pain. But it’s not for the reason you might think. It has nothing to do with all the hoopla concerning the politics of right vs. left . Neither is it necessarily the strange notion of telling people that they have to breathe worse, so we can save the ozone layer, so they can breathe better (though you must admit that does sound weird).
No, it has more to do with the simple fact that I (and undoubtedly other physicians as well) hate this inhaler. It is a dangerous, possibly addictive, unforgivably poor substitute for a real asthma regimen, and should have been banned from the market long ago.
And so for me, here’s the painful part; I don’t think that simply removing it from the market is the right thing to do.
Continue reading “In Asthma vs. Ozone Layer, Ozone Layer Wins.”