A randomized open-label trial on the use of budesonide/formoterol (Symbicort®) as an alternative reliever medication for mild to moderate asthmatic attacks
1 Emergency Medicine Department, School of Medical Sciences, Health Campus, Universiti Sains Malaysia, 16150 Kota Bharu, Kelantan, Malaysia
2 Respiratory and Medical Clinic, Kota Bharu Medical Centre, 16150 Kota Bharu, Malaysia
International Journal of Emergency Medicine 2012, 5:16 doi:10.1186/1865-1380-5-16Published: 13 April 2012
Conventionally, a nebulized short-acting β-2 agonist like salbutamol is often used as the reliever in acute exacerbations of asthma. However, recent worldwide respiratory outbreaks discourage routine use of nebulization. Previous studies have shown that combined budesonide/formoterol (Symbicort®, AstraZeneca) is effective as both a maintenance and reliever anti-asthmatic medication.
We performed a randomized, open-label study from March until August 2011 to compare the bronchodilatory effects of Symbicort® vs. nebulized salbutamol in acute exacerbation of mild to moderate asthmatic attack in an emergency department. Initial objective parameters measured include the oxygen saturation, peak expiratory flow rate (PEFR) and respiratory rate. During clinical reassessment, subjective parameters [i.e., Visual Analog Scale (VAS) and 5-point Likert scale of breathlessness] and the second reading of the objective parameters were measured. For the 5-point Likert scale, the patients were asked to describe their symptom relief as 1, much worse; 2, a little worse; 3, no change; 4, a little better; 5, much better.
Out of the total of 32 patients enrolled, 17 patients (53%) were randomized to receive nebulized salbutamol and 15 (47%) to receive Symbicort®. For both treatment arms, by using paired t- and Wilcoxon signed rank tests, it was shown that there were statistically significant improvements in oxygen saturation, PEFR and respiratory rate within the individual treatment groups (pre- vs. post-treatment). Comparing the effects of Symbicort® vs. nebulized salbutamol, the average improvement of oxygen saturation was 1% in both treatment arms (p = 0.464), PEFR 78.67 l/min vs. 89.41 l/min, respectively (p = 0.507), and respiratory rate 2/min vs. 2/min (p = 0.890). For subjective evaluation, all patients reported improvement in the VAS (average 2.45 cm vs. 2.20 cm), respectively (p = 0.765). All patients in both treatment arms reported either "a little better" or "much better" on the 5-point Likert scale, with none reporting "no change" or getting worse.
This study suggests that there is no statistical difference between using Symbicort® vs. nebulized salbutamol as the reliever for the first 15 min post-intervention.