Why and how to step down chronic asthma drugs: State of the Art Review
Asthma is a common chronic airways disease. The goal of asthma management is to control symptoms while minimizing the side effects of treatment. Following a period of stable asthma, clinicians should consider stepping down treatment. This approach is recommended by current guidelines. Step-down has been studied for several types of asthma drug regimens, and certain approaches may have lower risk than others. Systematic reviews of multiple trials support the following specific step-down approaches: optimizing inhaled corticosteroid dosing when stepping down oral corticosteroid, reducing inhaled corticosteroid from a higher dose, lowering inhaled corticosteroid-long acting bronchodilator (ICS-LABA) dose while adding ICS-LABA on-demand, adding leukotriene receptor antagonist (LTRA) while lowering inhaled corticosteroid dose, and using allergen immunotherapy when reducing inhaled corticosteroid from a higher dose. Systematic reviews of multiple trials support an increased risk of asthma exacerbation for patients who completely stop taking inhaled corticosteroid or long acting bronchodilator. Strategies to implement step-down in practice include the use of risk prediction as well as tools to support shared decision making and communication about risk between clinicians and patients.