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Canadian Respiratory Journal
Volume 2, Suppl A, Pages 32A-34A
Treatment of Asthma: From the Child to the Adult

What Is the Role of Beta-Agonist Bronchodilators in the Day-to-Day Treatment of Chronic Asthma?

Pierre Ernst

Respiratory Epidemiology Unit, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, and Department of Medicine, McGill University, Asthma Unit, Montreal General Hospital Montreal, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Copyright © 1995 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The reported links of asthma morbidity and mortality to the use of in haled beta-agonist bronchodilators are reviewed. Reports from the Saskatchewan Asthma Epidemiology Project (SAEP) suggest that it is excessive use that is linked to life-threatening asthma and that patients at highest risk can be identified by their increasing use of these medications. This is the major justification for prescribing short acting beta-agonists on an as needed basis, though there is both clinical and experimental evidence suggesting regular use of these agents may not be beneficial. New longer acting inhaled beta-agonists designed for regular use are being introduced and their exact role remains to be defined. Provisionally, they appear to be useful in patients whose asthma is not well controlled with optimal doses of inhaled corticosteroids. The use of these newer agents for the relief of acute bronchospasm is contraindicated because of their slow onset of action.