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Background: Although inhaled corticosteroids have an established role in the treatment of asthma, studies have tended to concentrate on non-smokers and little is known about the possible effect of cigarette smoking on the efficacy of treatment with inhaled steroids in asthma. A study was undertaken to investigate the effect of active cigarette smoking on responses to treatment with inhaled corticosteroids in patients with mild asthma.
Methods: The effect of treatment with inhaled fluticasone propionate (1000 µg daily) or placebo for 3 weeks was studied in a double blind, prospective, randomised, placebo controlled study of 38 steroid naïve adult asthmatic patients (21 non-smokers). Efficacy was assessed using morning and evening peak expiratory flow (PEF) readings, spirometric parameters, bronchial hyperreactivity, and sputum eosinophil counts. Comparison was made between responses to treatment in non-smoking and smoking asthmatic patients.
Results: There was a significantly greater increase in mean morning PEF in non-smokers than in smokers following inhaled fluticasone (27 l/min v –5 l/min). Non-smokers had a statistically significant increase in mean morning PEF (27 l/min), mean forced expiratory volume in 1 second (0.17 l), and geometric mean PC20 (2.6 doubling doses), and a significant decrease in the proportion of sputum eosinophils (–1.75%) after fluticasone compared with placebo. No significant changes were observed in the smoking asthmatic patients for any of these parameters.
Conclusions: Active cigarette smoking impairs the efficacy of short term inhaled corticosteroid treatment in mild asthma. This finding has important implications for the management of patients with mild asthma who smoke.