Objective: To compare the effect of inhaled budesonide given daily or as-needed on mild persistent childhood asthma.
Patients, design and interventions: 176 children aged 5–10 years with newly detected asthma were randomly assigned to three treatment groups: (1) continuous budesonide (400 μg twice daily for 1 month, 200 μg twice daily for months 2–6, 100 μg twice daily for months 7–18); (2) budesonide, identical treatment to group 1 during months 1–6, then budesonide for exacerbations as needed for months 7–18; and (3) disodium cromoglycate (DSCG) 10 mg three times daily for months 1–18. Exacerbations were treated with budesonide 400 μg twice daily for 2 weeks.
Main outcome measures: Lung function, the number of exacerbations and growth.
Results: Compared with DSCG the initial regular budesonide treatment resulted in a significantly improved lung function, fewer exacerbations and a small but significant decline in growth velocity. After 18 months, however, the lung function improvements did not differ between the groups. During months 7–18, patients receiving continuous budesonide treatment had significantly fewer exacerbations (mean 0.97), compared with 1.69 in group 2 and 1.58 in group 3. The number of asthma-free days did not differ between regular and intermittent budesonide treatment. Growth velocity was normalised during continuous low-dose budesonide and budesonide therapy given as needed. The latter was associated with catch-up growth.
Conclusions: Regular use of budesonide afforded better asthma control but had a more systemic effect than did use of budesonide as needed. The dose of ICS could be reduced as soon as asthma is controlled. Some children do not seem to need continuous ICS treatment.
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Funding: The study was sponsored by the Helsinki University Central Hospital (grant TYH 2303) and AstraZeneca, Lund Sweden. This study was done at the Department of Allergy at the Helsinki University Hospital.
Competing interests: None.
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