Concern growing about risk of popular asthma drugs

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by By JEAN ENERSEN / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on February 14, 2009 at 4:56 PM

Updated Monday, Sep 28 at 4:07 PM

Video: Widely used asthma drugs may be banned

An FDA advisory panel says two asthma drugs widely used for children are too risky and should be banned.

It's cause for confusion among parents whose children benefit from the drugs.

Fourteen-year-old Braden Gladsjo doesn't remember a time without asthma.

"At its worst it's probably like an elephant sitting on my chest," he said.

Braden's mother says the right mix of medications has meant less missed school and fewer trips to the hospital for her son.

"It has taken many years to kind of get the good combination of what's worked for him," Keleigh Gladsjo said.

Now two medications that had been FDA approved for children may be taken out of the mix. An FDA panel recently advised that the long acting drugs Serevent and Foradil were too risky to be used alone, and should be banned.

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Dr. Greg Redding, chief of pulmonology at Seattle Children's, explains why the drugs pose a danger for children.

"The primary concern is they don't feel the asthma getting worse," he said. "So you relieve the muscle contraction, the twitchy airways, the difficulty breathing through small airways with the bronchodilator, with that relaxing medicine that opens up the airway. But it doesn't treat the inflammation."

Braden relies on a long acting inhaler. But he uses it in a combination marketed as Advair. It includes a steroid to fight inflammation. The combination drug is not banned.

"Combination medicines are still thought to be fairly safe, and very very effective," Redding said. "So it's important to realize we're not throwing the baby out with the bath water."

Keleigh Gladsjo says she was concerned at first about the steroids that are part of the combo drug.

"You hear all kinds of bad things about steroids, stunting their growth, and we have bone density concerns," Gladsjo said.

But steroid medications have steadily improved over the last decade. They allow Braden to participate in his favorite sports.

And now that his asthma is under control with lower doses, he's seeing another benefit.

"This year I've probably grown 2, 3, 4 inches," he said.

The FDA advisory panel also called for more studies to see how safe the combination drugs are when used in kids.

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