UVa researcher finds common asthma treatment unbeneficial
A new study led by a University of Virginia researcher has found that a common asthma treatment didn't benefit children and actually put them at greater risk for colds, sore throats and bronchitis.
"It's a treatment that's been used for years in children with asthma, and adults, and it was based on an unproven belief that acid reflux had an important contribution for asthma control, the idea that people with reflux would cough and wheeze due to reflex as much as due to asthma," said UVa's Dr. Gerald Teague, the study's senior investigator.
The treatment was widely used for both adult and pediatric patients, Teague said.
("Treating acid reflux may help ease symptoms caused by either condition," reads a question-and-answer piece written by a medical doctor on the Mayo Clinic's website.)
The pediatric study was a follow-up on a very similar, but not identical, study in adults, he said. The adult study found no benefit to the treatment, while the pediatric study found no benefit, plus the increased risk of some maladies. Even those children with acid reflux saw similar results.
For the pediatric study, patients with poorly controlled asthma from about 15 different study sites were divided into two groups. One group had Prevacid added to inhaled asthma treatments, while the other got a placebo.
They were studied for six months, and the degree to which their asthma came under control was noted.
"We really don't understand the relationship between reflux and asthma like we thought we did," Teague said.
Teague said the use of a treatment against one disease to indirectly fight another is a common tactic in modern medicine.
"It is common in medicine, because, you know, diseases are often interrelated," Teague said.
The results were published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, according to a UVa news release.
Researchers weren't able to find a really good study to show them how common the reflux-treatment-to-combat-asthma strategy is, but Teague said it's highly prevalent.
"This drug is huge," he said.
He said he hopes the study will change the way doctors treat children.
Teague is now studying why severe asthma affects different parts of the lungs differently.