So what's the deal with Advair and Symbicort? These meds have helped so many asthmatics finally gain control of their asthma, yet, with all the recent warnings, the FDA seems to be wary of these meds, and this is scaring people.
Should we be wary and quit taking them? Or, should we continue to use these meds to control asthma? I personally agree with Dr. Matthew Minz that you should fear not. Allow me to explain.
Both Advair and Symbicort contain a Long Acting Beta Adrenergic (LABA) to keep the air passages in your lungs from spasming. In Advair the LABA is Serevent, in Symbicort the LABA is Formoterol.
Some reports say LABAs are linked to worsening asthma and even death, such as this warning about Advair:
"University of Iowa researchers have added their voices to growing warnings about Advair, saying that drugs that use salmeterol in combination with an inhaled corticosteroid can make asthma more severe or even fatal."
Or this warning regarding Symbicort:
"Rarely, serious (sometimes fatal) asthma-related breathing problems may occur in people with asthma who are treated with drugs similar to the formoterol in this product. "
The most recent FDA recommendation notes this: "LABAs should be used for the shortest duration of time required to achieve control of asthma symptoms and discontinued, if possible, once asthma control is achieved."
So, should we be worried? In a recent blog post, Dr. Minz answers this question best:
"There is very compelling data that shows when asthmatics stop their controller medications, that bad things happen, including ER visits, hospitalizations, and even death."
He's also correct when he writes that fear generated about these meds may actually make things worse for athmatics, especially if doctors and patients become afraid of these asthma controller meds that have helped many asthmatics gain control of their asthma.
Dr. Mintz also explains that the asthma death rate was increasing steadily until 1996/1997, and then the rate declined for the next decade. The decline started right about the time LABAs were introduced to the market. "Though one can not prove that the decline in asthma death rates are due to the use of LABA's," he writes, "it certainly can not be the case that LABA's cause asthma deaths."
He goes on to make a great case for why FDA Blows it on LABA Safety. A great read if you have time.
This blogger pretty much sums up my view on this matter. He notes how well Advair has helped his wife finally get her asthma under control. Yet, when he heard the latest FDA recommendation, he approached his wife and said, "Advair can lead to asthma-related deaths!"
His wife "lovingly assured" him that, "It gets rid of my symptoms! It makes me feel better! Asthma can lead to asthma-related death! "