Abstract

Poor adherence to maintenance pharmacotherapy is a reality in asthma. Studies confirm that when symptoms worsen, most patients increase short-acting ß2-agonist (SABA) use, instead of using controller medication. This behaviour might be attributable to several paradoxes in the current treatment approach. These paradoxes include the recommended use of a SABA bronchodilator alone at Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) step 1, despite the fact that asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease. At step 1, the patient has autonomy and their perception of need and disease control is accepted, but at higher asthma treatment steps a fixed-dose approach is recommended, irrespective of symptom severity. The unintended consequence is the establishment of a pattern of early over-reliance on SABA. New approaches that avoid these paradoxes are needed, such as patient-adjusted therapy, in which patients adopt a symptom-driven approach using a combination reliever/controller. We propose that SABA reliever monotherapy should be replaced by a combination of inhaled corticosteroid (ICS) and formoterol, or similar rapid-onset bronchodilator, as reliever therapy for patients at GINA steps 1 or 2. This will ensure early and more regular administration of a controller medication. However, a significant body of clinical data will be needed before this approach can be approved by regulatory authorities.