Relevant BNF section: BNF 3.2
Around 5.2 million people in the UK are estimated to have asthma.1 Mortality and hospitalisation rates associated with the condition fell significantly in the last 20 years of the 20th century, but have not fallen further since then.2 In 2006, there were over 1,000 asthma deaths and around 78,000 hospital admissions due to asthma in the UK.2 One pharmacological strategy that has been developed recently to try to improve asthma management is the use of single maintenance and reliever therapy (SMART). This involves the patient using a single inhaler containing a corticosteroid (budesonide) and a long-acting beta2 agonist (LABA; formoterol), for regular maintenance treatment, but also for additional ‘rescue’ use on an as-needed basis. Combination inhaler use is claimed to improve adherence, and is now included in UK asthma guidelines.3 Here we assess the evidence for single combination therapy, its relative effectiveness in comparison with other approaches, and whether or under what circumstances it should be used.
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