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Using Asthma Inhalers Releases Harmful Chemicals, Makes Asthma Worse

Common treatments like salbutamol cause the lungs to release harmful chemicals if taken too often - bringing on more attacks.

Professor Peter Bradding and colleagues found that when inhalers are used frequently, the lungs lose their ability to stop the release of the harmful chemical.

"When we exposed cells in the lab to the inhaler drugs over a period of time they increased the release of lung chemicals that bring on attacks," said Bradding.

"Despite their usefulness in rapidly relieving asthma, relievers may cause asthma to worsen when used too frequently. Moreover, they are not always as effective as predicted,"

The research has important consequences for individuals with poorly controlled asthma and for those who rely too heavily on relievers whilst not using their preventer medication regularly.

Prof Bradding, of Leicester University, said if the finding is confirmed it could lead to the development of new treatment strategies benefitting thousands of people.

There are 5.4 million people in the UK who suffer from asthma.

"Professor Bradding aims to understand why it is that people who use their reliever inhalers too often, without using a preventer inhaler, are putting themselves at risk of worse asthma symptoms.

Research at the University of Pittsburgh had previously shown that the chemical reverses the protective effects of other drugs which prevent asthma attacks from happening.

Asthma specialists said that this could explain why some sufferers who use the inhalers frequently report a gradual deterioration in their condition over several months.

One leading specialist, Dr Mark Aronica of the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, said: "The concern is that this chemical could build up in patients who take the drug frequently. We need clinical studies to find out whether this is the case."

January 15, 2010

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