Medications for the Treatment of Asthma

There are several different classes of medications used in order to maintain and treat asthma.

  • Inhaled corticosteroids: these are often considered the cornerstone of asthma management as they are directed at decreasing the inflammation that is the basis of this disease.  They are available in a variety of types and strengths, and are chosen for patients based on symptom profile.
  • Inhaled long-acting bronchodilators:  the object of these inhalers is to decrease airway hyper reactivity, or relax smooth muscles of the airways.  As single agents they are rarely used for maintenance therapy, but may be used to prevent exercise- induced symptoms. 
  • Combination inhalers: these contain both an inhaled corticosteroid and a long-acting bronchodilator, and are generally reserved for patients whose symptoms are not controlled with an inhaled corticosteroid alone. 
  • Inhaled short-acting bronchodilators: generally these medications are reserved for emergency or rescue use, when a patient’s daily medications are not enough to control symptoms.  They can also be used to prevent symptoms from arising with exposure to specific triggers, such as animal dander or exercise. 
  • Antileukotrienes: leukotrienes, which contribute to inflammation within the body, are often beneficial to patients with asthma as they help to decrease airway inflammation.  These medications are available in pill or powder forms, as opposed to being inhaled. 
  • Monoclonal antibodies: medications such as Xolair, Nucala, Fasenra, Dupixent, and Cinqair are indicated as add-on therapies when a standard medication regimen is inadequate to control asthma symptoms.  These medications are available as injections or infusion.  

**Be aware of problems that are often associated with asthma symptoms, such as rhinitis, reflux disease, vocal cord dysfunction, and sensitivity to aspirin. These conditions may not respond to standard treatment regimens, and could require further evaluation.   

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