Washington, Apr 10 : A scientist from the University of Huston (UH) has shown that drugs known to worsen asthma symptoms can actually help patients breathe easier in the long run.
Richard Bond, associate professor of pharmacology at UH, based his study on the hypothesis that treating patients with medicine that initially worsens their symptoms before, can eventually improve their overall health and used beta-blockers (or antagonists) instead of stimulants (or agonists) in asthmatics.
He first conducted his studies on mice and later moved on to two clinical trials with humans.
Acute use of beta blockers by asthmatics has long been thought to be contraindicated, as it may cause increased airway resistance. While the use of beta-stimulants is known to provide temporary relief, their effectiveness declines over time.
The trials conducted over humans revealed that while beta-blockers initially made breathing problems worse, their continued use resulted in improved respiratory function after a 28-day period.
Acute use of beta-blockers alleviated asthma by helping the smooth muscle lining the airways to relax and dilate, thereby allowing air to flow more freely.
During study conducted over mice and humans, mild asthmatics were treated for nine weeks with the beta blocker 'nadolol', with all subjects tolerating the drug and 80 percent experiencing a reduction in airway hyperresponsiveness. The results were similar in both humans and mouse models.
"The principle that certain pharmacological compounds have different effects depending upon whether they are given for long or short periods has been demonstrated," Bond said.
"And even if I am correct about beta blockers ultimately being used in the treatment of asthma, there probably always will be a need for the inhaler-type agonist drugs to handle acute asthma attacks.
"I do believe, though, that beta blockers hold promise in a maintenance or preventative regimen that could reduce the number or severity of attacks and improve a patient's quality of life," he added.
The study conducted over mice was recently published in the American Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology while the results of the first human trial were recently published in Pulmonary Pharmacology and Therapeutics.