according to the results of two large, double-blind, 52-week, randomized phase 3 trials.
In the(Symbicort Given as Needed in Mild Asthma) trial, the regimen outperformed as-needed terbutaline in terms of asthma control (34.4% vs. 31.1% of weeks; P = .046) and exacerbations (rate ratio, 0.36; 95% confidence interval, 0.27-0.49). In the study, it was noninferior to twice-daily budesonide for preventing severe exacerbations (RR, 0.97; upper one-sided 95% CI, 1.16). The findings were published in two reports in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Accordingly, they randomly assigned 3,849 patients aged 12 years and up who had mild persistent asthma (mean forced expiratory volume in 1 second [FEV1] before bronchodilator use, 84% of predicted value) to receive one of three regimens: twice-daily placebo plus terbutaline (0.5 mg) used as needed, twice-daily placebo plus budesonide-formoterol (200 mcg of budesonide and 6 mcg of formoterol) used as needed, or maintenance twice-daily budesonide (200 mcg) plus as-needed terbutaline (0.5 mg), all for 52 weeks.
In the final analysis of 3,836 patients, annual rates of severe exacerbations were 0.20 with terbutaline, significantly worse than with budesonide-formoterol (0.07) or maintenance budesonide (0.09). Using budesonide-formoterol (Symbicort) as needed improved the odds of having well-controlled asthma by about 14%, when compared with using terbutaline as needed (odds ratio, 1.14; 95% CI, 1.00-1.30; P = .046).
Although maintenance budesonide controlled asthma best (44.4% of weeks; OR vs. budesonide-formoterol, 0.64; 95% CI, 0.57-0.73), 21% of patients did not adhere to it, the researchers reported. “Patients are often more concerned [than their health care providers] about adverse effects of inhaled glucocorticoids, even when low inhaled doses are used,” they wrote. Notably, the budesonide-formoterol as-needed group received a median daily dose of only 57 mcg inhaled glucocorticoid, 17% of that received by the budesonide maintenance group.
In SYGMA2 (NCT02224157), 4,215 patients with mild persistent asthma aged 12 years and up were randomly assigned to receive either twice-daily placebo plus as-needed budesonide-formoterol or twice-daily maintenance budesonide plus as-needed terbutaline. Doses were the same as in the SYGMA1 trial. The regimens resembled each other in terms of severe exacerbations (annualized rates, 0.11 and 0.12, respectively) and time to first exacerbation, even though budesonide-formoterol patients received a 75% lower median daily dose of inhaled glucocorticoid, reported, of the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and his associates.