A panel of FDA advisors met Thursday and recommended that two asthma prescriptions be pulled from the market. The FDA study presented to advisors finds that long acting asthma medicines that reduce the use of inhalers are two to seven times more likely than other asthma medications to lead to severe complications or even death, especially in women, African-Americans, and children under 12.
Dr. David Lang from the Cleveland Clinic says, "It opens the airways, reduces symptoms, but alone, doesn't treat the underlying inflammation that drives symptoms". That is why doctors say these drugs must be used with inhaled cortico-steroids, which do treat the inflammation. Symbicort and Advair have the steroids built in and Advair was the only one of the four medicines that showed no increased risk. One safety reviewer wants Serevent and Foradil off the market and all of the drugs banned for children. Another scientist told advisors that the benefits of these drugs far outweigh their risks.
Manufacturers say that when used with the steroid, these medicines save lives. The overall numbers are small, of the 60,000 patients studied only 20 suffered asthma-related deaths.