Combined long-acting β2-agonist and inhaled corticosteroid (LABA/ICS) therapy improves outcomes in many asthmatics. Some studies suggest that patients homozygous for arginine at the 16th amino-acid position of the β2 adrenergic receptor (B16 Arg/Arg) benefit less than those with B16 Gly/Gly.
In an NIH-funded, B16 genotype-stratified, prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over trial (www.ClinicalTrials.gov registration ID NCT00200967), we compared adding salmeterol or placebo to ICS in patients with moderate asthma, using AM PEF as the primary outcome.
After 18 weeks, Arg/Arg (n=42) and Gly/Gly (n=45) subjects had greater AM PEF with salmeterol than placebo, with no difference in improvement by genotype (Arg/Arg 21.4 (p<0.0001) vs. Gly/Gly 21.5 L/min (p<0.0001); 0.1 L/min difference between genotypes, 95% CI (−14.2, 14.4), p=0.99). In Gly/Gly subjects, methacholine PC20 (a secondary outcome) doubled when salmeterol was added to ICS (p<0.0001), but remained unchanged in Arg/Arg subjects (p=0.87) (1.32 doubling dose difference between genotypes (95%CI 0.43,2.21), p=0.0038). An exploratory posthoc subset analysis of African Americans showed that salmeterol improved the AM and PM PEF for the 8 Gly/Gly subjects (29 L/min, p=0.013 and 45 L/min, p= 0.0005, respectively) but not for the 9 Arg/Arg subjects (−12 L/min, p=0.57 and−2.2 L/min, p=0.92, respectively).
B16 Arg/Arg and Gly/Gly patients experience improved airway function with salmeterol added to moderate-dose ICS. While these data provide reassurance that in the general population these polymorphisms should not alter the use of LABA with moderate-dose ICS, the significance of the genotype-differentiated response in airway reactivity favoring Gly/Gly subjects and the post-hoc analysis in African Americans require further investigation.