Early intervention of recent onset mild persistent asthma in children aged under 11 yrs: the Steroid Treatment As Regular Therapy in early asthma (START) trial
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Inhaled corticosteroids are known to be effective in persistent asthma, but their long-term effect in mild persistent disease of recent onset, which is particularly relevant in children, requires clarification. The objective of this study was to determine the long-term efficacy of regular inhaled low-dose budesonide in children aged <11 yrs with mild persistent asthma with onset within 2 yrs of enrollment. Children aged 5-10 yrs formed part of the population of the inhaled Steroid Treatment As Regular Therapy in early asthma (START) study, and they were randomized in a double-blind manner to treatment with once daily budesonide 200 microg or placebo via Turbuhaler in addition to usual clinical care and other asthma medication. The double-blind treatment phase continued for 3 yrs. Of the 1974 children, 1000 in the budesonide group and 974 in the placebo group, were analyzed for efficacy. Addition of once-daily budesonide to usual care was associated with a significant increase in the time to first severe asthma-related event (SARE) and significantly reduced risk of SARE over 3 yrs. The hazard ratio relative to usual care (placebo) was 0.60 (95% confidence interval: 0.40-0.90; p = 0.012), with a relative risk reduction of 40%. Children receiving budesonide also needed significantly less intervention with other inhaled corticosteroids (12.3% vs. 22.5% over 3 yrs; p < 0.01), with trends towards decreased usage of oral/systemic corticosteroids and inhaled short-acting beta2-agonists. Budesonide treatment also had a significant beneficial effect on lung function relative to placebo. In conclusion, early intervention adding once-daily budesonide to usual care in children with mild, persistent asthma of recent onset reduces the long-term risk and frequency of SAREs and improves lung function compared with usual care alone.
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