Stepping down asthma treatment: how and when

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Purpose of reviewGuidelines suggest that asthma medication should be reduced once asthma control is sustained. Moderate-dose inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) can typically be reduced, but questions remain about the lowest effective ICS dose and the role of non-ICS controllers in treatment reduction. Long-acting beta agonist (LABA) safety concerns have created controversy about how to step down patients on ICS/LABA therapy. This review will focus on the current status of these issues.Recent findingsIntermittent ICS treatment, often in fixed combination with short-acting beta agonist, is an emerging strategy for control of mild asthma. Addition of leukotriene modifiers, LABAs, and omalizumab to ICS can allow for reduced ICS dosing. Doses of ICS that control symptoms may be inadequate to control exacerbations. Reducing ICS dose before discontinuing LABAs may be the more effective approach for patients on combination therapy.SummaryUse of non-ICS controllers allows for ICS dose reduction with superior outcomes. Tapering of ICS prior to LABA discontinuation may be the favored approach for patients on ICS/LABA therapy, but an understanding of long-term outcomes and further safety data are required. The lowest ICS dose that adequately controls both asthma impairment and risk remains to be determined.

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