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Fenoterol and asthma deaths

Abstract

A wave of asthma deaths in the 1960s was, at first, linked with overuse of bronchodilator aerosols, especially isoprenaline.1 Later studies have, however, attributed it to poor assessment and treatment of the attacks.2,3 A distinct geographic trend was also seen at this time. New Zealand had a higher mortality than the UK in 1966 (28 v. 22/million) which reached a peak in 1979 (41 v. 8/million).4 The New Zealand Medical Research Council investigated this problem and their recent report blames the use of fenoterol (Berotec), a relatively selective β2 adrenoceptor agonist.5,6 This article reviews the safety of fenoterol in the treatment of asthma.

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