PURPOSE: To compare the short-term efficacy and safety of low-dose fluticasone propionate with that of oral zafirlukast therapy for patients previously treated with beta-2-agonists alone, and to evaluate the potential therapeutic benefit of switching from zafirlukast to a low-dose inhaled corticosteroid. SUBJECTS AND METHODS: This study consisted of a 4-week randomized, double-blind treatment period followed by a 4-week open-label period. Two hundred ninety-four patients ≥12 years old with asthma previously uncontrolled with beta-2-agonists alone were randomly assigned to treatment with low-dose inhaled fluticasone (88 μg twice daily) or oral zafirlukast (20 mg twice daily). After 4 weeks, all patients discontinued their double-blind therapy and received open-label fluticasone (88 μg twice daily). Outcomes included pulmonary function, asthma symptoms, albuterol use, asthma exacerbations, and adverse events. RESULTS: During the double-blind treatment period, fluticasone patients had significantly greater improvements in morning peak flow (29.3 L/min vs. 18.3 L/min), percentage of symptom-free days (19.8% vs. 11.6%), and daily albuterol use (-1.8 puffs per day vs. -1.1 puffs per day) compared with zafirlukast patients (P ≤0.025, each comparison). During the open-label treatment period, patients switched from zafirlukast to fluticasone experienced additional improvements in morning peak flow (17.2 L/min), evening peak flow (13.6 L/min), and FEV1 (0.11 liter) and daily albuterol use (-0.9 puffs daily) compared with values obtained at the end of the double-blind treatment period (P ≤0.001, each comparison). CONCLUSION: Low-dose fluticasone was more effective than zafirlukast in improving pulmonary function and symptoms in patients with persistent asthma. In addition, switching patients from zafirlukast to fluticasone further improved clinical outcomes.
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