The European Medicines Agency has been advised by experts in respiratory diseases to warn patients that long-acting beta-agonist (LABA) drugs are dangerous. LABA drugs are used to treat the more severe forms of asthma.
Vassilis Vassiliou, of the University of Cambridge who penned an editorial in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine said that LABA drugs, which include Serevent, salmeterol and formoterol, should always be used in addition to other steroid drugs as using them singly will cause irreversible damage.
"We are seeing an increasingly worrying trend where chronic asthma sufferers, mainly children, are being treated solely by LABA drugs. LABA on its own is not safe and this monotherapy is neither supported by current evidence nor encouraged by the current British Thoracic Society guidelines," Vassiliou wrote.
The US Food and Drug Administration issued a warning last year that LABA drugs may be related to asthma-linked deaths. "It is crucial the European Medicines Agency follow (this lead)," Dr Vassiliou said. "While there is provision in the British Thoracic Society guidelines for LABA drugs to be discontinued if they are not deemed useful after a trial period, this is not being reinforced. It is critical that current evidence on asthma drugs is incorporated in clinical practice."