The inhaled Steroid Treatment as Regular Therapy in early asthma (START) study: rationale and design.
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Although the beneficial effects of treatment with inhaled steroids in asthma are widely accepted, the role of early intervention in patients with mild asthma remains unsettled. Conventional efficacy trials are often of short duration and involve highly selected patient populations that exclude many patients typical of those encountered in routine clinical practice. Hence, a large "real-world" effectiveness study is needed to evaluate the benefits of early intervention with inhaled steroids in patients with mild, persistent asthma. In the START (inhaled Steroid Treatment As Regular Therapy in early asthma) study, patients ages 6-60 years, from 31 countries and districts worldwide with mild persistent asthma, have been randomized to once-daily treatment with budesonide, 200 microg (for patients < 11 years) or 400 microg (for patients > or = 11 years), or placebo via Turbuhaler for 3 years. The double-blind treatment period will be followed by a 2-year period of open budesonide treatment. Throughout the study, other asthma medication including glucocorticosteroids can be given as judged appropriate by the investigator. Lung function will be measured by spirometry using standardized techniques at 3-month intervals throughout the study, and bronchodilator reversibility will be measured annually. The primary outcome measures are the time to the first severe asthma-related event during the first 3 years of the study and the change in postbronchodilator forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV(1)) from baseline during the entire 5-year study period. These measures have been chosen to reflect the progression of mild asthma toward more severe asthma and the extent of irreversible airflow limitation, which should reflect the degree of airway remodeling.
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