Albuterol Not Better Than Placebo in Self-Report Outcomes

FEV1 improves but self-reported outcomes not significantly better than placebo, sham acupuncture

WEDNESDAY, July 13 (HealthDay News) -- Albuterol increases maximum forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) in patients with asthma, but self-reported outcomes did not improve significantly with albuterol compared to placebo inhaler or sham acupuncture, according to a study published in the July 14 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Michael E. Wechsler, M.D., from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, and colleagues compared acute changes in lung functions after repeated administration of four interventions in 46 patients with asthma, 39 of whom completed the study. Patients were randomly assigned to treatment with active albuterol inhaler, placebo inhaler, sham acupuncture, or no intervention, and each patient was administered treatment during 12 visits. Repeated spirometry tests were performed over a period of two hours at each visit, and measurements of FEV1 along with patients' self-reported improvement ratings were recorded.

The investigators found a 20 percent increase in FEV1 with albuterol compared with an approximate 7 percent increase with each of the other three interventions. There were no significant differences in patient-reported improvement after intervention with albuterol, placebo inhaler, or sham acupuncture (50, 45, and 46 percent improvement, respectively). However, there was a significantly greater subjective improvement with all three interventions compared to the no-intervention group (21 percent).

"Although albuterol, but not the two placebo interventions, improved FEV1 in these patients with asthma, albuterol provided no incremental benefit with respect to the self-reported outcomes," the authors write.

Two of the study authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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