Objective To compare the efficacy of inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) versus montelukast (MONT) in schoolchildren and adolescents with mild–moderate persistent asthma.
Methods Randomised, prospective, controlled trials published January 1996 to November 2009 with a minimum of 4 weeks of ICS versus MONT and of ICS versus MONT+ICS were retrieved through Medline, Embase and Central databases. The primary outcome was asthma exacerbations requiring systemic corticosteroids (AEX); secondary outcomes were pulmonary function, withdrawal/hospitalisation due to AEX, change in symptoms score, rescue-medication-free days, albuterol use, adverse effects and adherence.
Results Of 124 studies identified, 18 studies (n=3757 patients) met criteria for inclusion (13 compared ICS vs MONT, 3 ICS vs MONT+ICS and 2 ICS vs MONT vs ICS+MONT). Patients receiving ICS showed a significantly lower risk for AEX than those with MONT (RR=0.83, 95% CI 0.72 to 0.96, p=0.01); post-hoc analysis suggests this effect was independent of quality, sponsorship and study duration. Children treated with ICS had a significant higher pulmonary function (final FEV1 % predicted, change from baseline FEV1 %, final morning peak expiratory flow (PEF)) and better clinical parameters (albuterol use, symptom score, rescue-medication-free days, withdrawals due to AEX) versus MONT. No significant difference in primary or secondary outcomes was found when MONT was added on to ICS versus ICS alone; however, these analyses were based on only two studies.
Conclusions Schoolchildren and adolescents with mild-moderate persistent asthma treated with ICS had less AEX and better lung function and asthma control than with MONT. There are insufficient data to determine whether the addition of MONT to ICS improves outcome.
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