The Back to School asthma study: the effect of montelukast on asthma burden when initiated prophylactically at the start of the school year
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BACKGROUND: Pediatric asthma hospitalizations peak in early autumn. OBJECTIVE: To determine the effectiveness of montelukast therapy in reducing the asthma burden in children when initiated prophylactically on school return. METHODS: This was a randomized, multicenter, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of children with asthma aged 6 to 14 years. No minimum asthma symptoms were required, and patients could continue inhaled corticosteroid (ICS) use. Montelukast, 5 mg, chewable tablet (n = 580) or matching placebo (n = 582) was taken the night before the first day of school and nightly thereafter for 8 weeks. The primary end point was the percentage of days with worsening asthma, defined by one of the following: (1) increased beta-agonist use, (2) increased daytime symptoms, (3) awake "all night," (4) oral corticosteroid rescue or increased ICS use for worsening asthma, or (5) unanticipated health care utilization. RESULTS: The reduction in the percentage of days with worsening asthma with montelukast use versus placebo use was not significant (24.3% vs 27.2%, P = .07). Prespecified subgroup analyses demonstrated nonsignificant trends favoring montelukast therapy in boys and older children but no effect by baseline ICS use or history of cold symptoms. Post hoc analysis showed a nonsignificant trend favoring montelukast therapy in reducing worsening asthma days for children commencing school after August 15 compared with earlier commencement. CONCLUSIONS: Montelukast use was not significantly more effective than was placebo use in reducing the percentage of days with worsening asthma when initiated at the start of the school year. The effect of montelukast treatment on the fall peak in asthma burden may depend on sex, age, and the date of school return.
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