Some asthma medications, long-acting beta agonists (LABAs), may be causing more harm than good. These medications will get new safety warnings. According to the FDA, these should never be used alone by children or adults, and doctors and patients will be asked to scale back use of the drugs. Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, say that asthma patients should try to use a single-agent steroid inhaler and avoid combination medications with LABAs unless absolutely necessary.
Some problems with LABAs are that they increase the risk of severe, worsening symptoms and lead to increased hospitalizations and deaths. Advair and Symbicort are combination medications that contain LABAs Serevent or Foradil, along with inhaled corticosteroids. "Corticosteroids suppress inflammation and help reduce symptoms in inflammatory ailments such as asthma and arthritis." FDA review of available clinical trials led the agency to warn that use of LABAs should be limited, as they increase asthma exacerbations, hospitalizations and deaths. There is a particular concern for children using these drugs. The FDA’s Office of Pediatric Therapeutics advises parents that "child[ren] with asthma should not be on a LABA alone."
Additional safety studies, looking at LABAs used with inhaled corticosteroids, must be conducted by drug makers. The FDA will ensure that the new safety measures are being followed, by continuing to scrutinize prescribing patterns.