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OBJECTIVE--To assess the potentially increased risk of death or near death from asthma in asthmatic patients with psychosis. DESIGN--Case-control study. SETTING--The computerised health databases of the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. SUBJECTS--131 cases of death or near death from asthma identified within a cohort of asthmatic patients; 3930 matched non-cases. EXPOSURE AND OUTCOME MEASURES--The exposure of interest was the use of major tranquillisers in the period before an outcome event. Outcomes included death or near death from asthma. RESULTS--Crude analyses showed that asthmatic patients who had used major tranquillisers in the previous 12 months were at a 3.2 (95% confidence interval 1.4 to 7.5) times greater risk of death or near death from asthma than asthmatic patients who did not use major tranquillisers. Past users of major tranquillisers who had recently discontinued use were at a particularly high risk (relative risk 6.6; 2.5 to 17.6). Adjustment for use of antiasthma drugs and other confounders abolished this excess risk. CONCLUSIONS--Asthmatic patients who use major tranquillisers seem to be at an increased risk of death or near death from asthma. Physicians treating asthmatic patients with a history of use of major tranquillisers should exercise greater caution with regard to management of such patients.