Tolerance to bronchodilation during treatment with long-acting beta-agonists, a randomised controlled trial.Respir Res. 2005 Sep 16; 6:107.RR
Regular use of beta-agonists leads to tolerance to their bronchodilator effects. This can be demonstrated by measuring the response to beta-agonist following bronchoconstriction using methacholine. However most studies have demonstrated tolerance after a period of beta-agonist withdrawal, which is not typical of their use in clinical practice. This study assessed tolerance to the bronchodilator action of salbutamol during ongoing treatment with long-acting beta-agonist.
Random-order, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial. After 1 week without beta-agonists, 13 asthmatic subjects inhaled formoterol 12 microg twice daily or matching placebo for 1 week. Eight hours after the first and last doses subjects inhaled methacholine to produce a 20% fall in FEV1. Salbutamol 100, 200 and 400 microg (cumulative dose) was then given at 5-minute intervals and FEV1 was measured 5 minutes after each dose. After a 1 week washout subjects crossed over to the other treatment. Unscheduled use of beta-agonists was not allowed during the study. The main outcome variable was the area under the salbutamol response curve.
The analysis showed a significant time by treatment interaction indicating that the response to salbutamol fell during formoterol therapy compared to placebo. After 1 week of formoterol the area under the salbutamol response curve was 48% (95% confidence interval 28 to 68%) lower than placebo. This reduction in response remained significant when the analyses were adjusted for changes in the pre-challenge FEV1 and dose of methacholine given (p = 0.001).
The bronchodilator response to salbutamol is significantly reduced in patients taking formoterol. Clinically relevant tolerance to rescue beta-agonist treatment is likely to occur in patients treated with long-acting beta-agonists.