Pfizer’s Spiriva brings hope to asthma patients


Asthma is a disease that poses difficulty in your ability to breathe.  I have seen many members of my family suffer from asthma, as a genetic disorder. Also, in cities with high air pollution, asthma is increasing among youngsters.  The most common way to deal with asthma is to use inhale steroids, which opens the pathways in lungs and helps breathing.  But, for some asthma patient, standard steroids do not help and a recent study exhibited that addition of Spiriva can help those patients.  The study was small, but has produced promising results. 

About study
The study was lead by researcher Dr. Stephen P. Peters, a professor of pulmonary, critical care, allergy, and immunologic medicine at Wake Forest University, in Winston-Salem, NC. The researchers conducted study that included

  • three drug regimens on 210 asthmatics
  • three combinations were: Spiriva plus an inhaled steroid; a double dose of the inhaled steroid; and an inhaled steroid plus Serevent, a long-acting beta agonist that relaxes the muscles in the airway
  • patients were put on each medication for 14 weeks 

The report was funded by the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and is published in the Sept. 19 online edition of the New England Journal of Medicine

Results of study
The results of the study showed improvement in breathing and asthma for these tough-to-treat patients:

  • Spiriva plus an inhaled steroid was more effective than a double dose of steroids.
  • the combination of an inhaled steroid and Spiriva was not less effective than using an inhaled steroid plus Serevent 

Dr Peters emphasized the importance of later finding owning to safety concerns raised about long-acting beta agonists. “These drugs carry a note on their labels warning of the possibility of severe adverse events, including death,” he noted.

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Reaction from experts
The study in general was widely appreciated with a note that the findings are premature and much longer, larger clinical trials are needed as confirmation.  Other opinions included

Dr Peters said that

  • Spiriva’s safety profile among asthmatics still needs to be studied
  • My hope is that in three to five years we will have the drug approved for asthma 

Dr. Shirin Shafazand, an assistant professor of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, said that “perhaps there is a role for Spiriva in these poorly controlled asthmatics.”

About Spiriva
Spiriva or Tiotropium bromide belongs to a class of drugs called anticholinergics.  These drugs work on the basic principle of enlarging the airways to allow for easier breathing. Spiriva has been approved by FDA for its use by patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a chronic ailment that is a combination of bronchitis and emphysema. 

The study brings hope for asthma patients who do not get relief from commonly used steroids.  Hopefully, larger clinical trial will be able to back the initial results and get FDA approval in benefit of hard to treat asthma patients.

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Source: AP

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