Asthma Watch

OCTOBER 01, 2008

Aspirin May Reduce Asthma in Women

A large study of healthy women found that taking low doses of aspirin lowered the rate of asthma. Two earlier studies involving adult men and women have shown a significant reduction in the risk of newly diagnosed asthma linked with regular aspirin use, noted the researchers.

For the current study, the Harvard researchers looked at data from the Women's Health Study, in which >37,000 female health professionals aged 45 and older with no history of asthma were randomly assigned aspirin 100 mg every other day or placebo. During the next 10 years, fewer new cases of diagnosed asthma were seen in the aspirin group (872 cases), compared with the placebo group (963 cases), according to the study published in the June 2008 issue of Thorax.

Some researchers debate the findings, however. In an editorial in the same journal issue, researchers in the United Kingdom (UK) point out that women in the aspirin group had a considerably increased risk of gastrointestinal bleeding requiring blood transfusion.

The UK researchers said that "before public recommendations are provided, results from randomized trials are needed that are specifically designed to test whether low-dose aspirin reduces the risk of asthma."

Eczema Ups Odds of Asthma Risk in Boys

Although no association has been reported between early eczema and asthma in girls, researchers found that boys who develop asthma in their first 2 years of life are more likely to have asthma later on in their lives.

For the study, the researchers followed 403 children from families with a history of allergic disease. Of the boys with eczema, the odds of an asthma diagnosis by age 7 was 2.45 higher than for boys without the skin condition. Girls with eczema, however, were 12% less likely to have asthma. Sensitization to allergens and wheeze also were related to asthma risk, but the researchers found that the eczema?asthma link was still present after factoring in both symptoms. The results were reported in the May 2008 issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Allergy Cost Hits $11 Billion

A new report issued by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that Americans spent $11 billion on physicians' bills, prescription drugs, and other allergy treatments in 2005. Sneezing, itchy eyes, and other allergy-related symptoms sent 22 million individuals to a physician that year.

The money spent is almost double the $6 billion spent in 2000 on allergies. Of the $11 billion, physician visits accounted for $4 billion and prescriptions drugs totaled $7 billion, the agency reported. The average annual spending on allergy treatment climbed from $350 per person to $520 per person between 2000 and 2005.

The government statistics did not include OTC medications used to treat allergic rhinitis.

Study Finds Asthma Link to Heart Disease

Adult-onset asthma seems to raise the risk of heart disease and stroke among women, but not men. For the study, the researchers used data from the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study to analyze the correlation of asthma with the risk of heart disease and stroke according to sex.

The researchers found that, compared with those without asthma, women with adult-onset asthma had a 2.10-fold increase in the frequency of heart disease and a 2.36-fold increase in the rate of stroke. Reporting in the American Journal of Cardiology (May 1, 2008), the researchers did not find an association between childhood- or adult-onset asthma and heart disease or stroke in men, or between childhood-onset asthma and heart disease or stroke in women.

Early Drug Therapy Improves Symptoms

Patients with milder asthma symptoms have better results in the long term if they begin using inhaled steroids early on, according to a study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (May 2008). The study involved 7241 patients aged 5 to 66 with recently diagnosed mild persistent asthma.

Of the participants, about half were assigned to take budesonide every day, in addition to regular therapy. The remaining patients continued with the usual therapy alone for the first 3 years of the study, after which time they were given the option to start on budesonide.

The researchers reported that overall, patients who started on the inhaled steroid therapy early in their diagnosis fared better over the long term. They also had less need for other asthma medications, including long-acting beta-agonists.

F A S T   F A C T: Asthma and allergies strike 1 of 4 Americans.