Asthma expert irked as study links preventers to pneumonia

Claims that inhaled steroids may increase pneumonia risk in people with asthma should be treated with caution, respiratory experts say.

A Canadian cohort study of more than 150,000 people with asthma found current use of inhaled steroids was linked to an 83% increased risk of hospitalisation for pneumonia.

The risk appeared to be greater with higher doses of inhaled steroids and was seen for both fluticasone and budesonide, said the researchers from McGill University in Montreal.

They said the magnitude of pneumonia risk seen with inhaled steroids in asthma was comparable to that previously seen in patients with COPD.

“Our study suggests the risk may be present in asthma, although pneumonia in patients with asthma remains unusual and inhaled corticosteroids remain the best therapy available," they concluded.

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RACGP president Dr Bastian Seidel, who is also the director of National Asthma Council, questioned the quality of the study, warning that the findings could pose a serious risk if patients overreact and cease steroids without consulting their GP.

He noted that previous data from randomised control trials had found inhaled steroid use decreased asthma patients' risk of developing pneumonia.

And even if the study findings were valid, the risk of “out of control” asthma was far more serious than pneumonia, he told Australian Doctor.

It was vitally important for asthma patients to be on inhaled corticosteroids, which are “safe medications that are going to make a difference to clinical outcomes,” he said.

More information:

British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology 2017; online