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A brief history of inhaled asthma therapy over the last fifty years


This year is the 50th anniversary of the introduction into clinical use of the first modern inhaler for the management of asthma — the pressurised metered-dose inhaler (pMDI). The pMDI was initially used for the administration of the non-selective beta-agonists adrenaline and isoprenaline. However, the epidemic of asthma deaths which occurred in the 1960s led to these drugs being superseded by the selective short-acting beta-agonist salbutamol, and the first inhaled corticosteroid (ICS) beclomethasone. At the same time, sodium cromoglycate was introduced, to be administered via the first dry-powder inhaler — the Spinhaler — but owing to its relatively weak anti-inflammatory action its use is now very limited. Over the last 10 years, the long-acting beta-agonists (LABAs) have become an important add-on therapy for the management of asthma, and they are now often used with ICS in a single ICS/LABA combination inhaler.

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Correspondence to Graham Crompton.

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Crompton, G. A brief history of inhaled asthma therapy over the last fifty years. Prim Care Respir J 15, 326–331 (2006).

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