Treating reflux does not help asthma

Studies in adults have looked at the use of PPIs for asthma and have not shown improvement (see references below).  Now a trial of lansoprazole suggests the same is true in children (JAMA 2012; 307: 373-81).  This study was a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled study of 306 children with a mean age of 11; the participants were recruited from 19 academic medical centers in the US.  149 children received lansoprazole and 157 received placebo.  The dose of lansoprazole was 15mg in patients weighing less than 30kg, and 30mg in those weighing more than 30kg.

Those treated with lansoprazole did no better than placebo with regard to symptoms and lung function.  The main outcome was the asthma control questionnaire (ACQ) score. The lansoprazole group had a mean change in this score of 0.2 units which was not a meaningful change. More precise measures of lung function including forced expiratory volume also did not differ.

In a subgroup of 115 patients who had esophageal pH studies, the prevalence of GER was 43%.  Yet, no treatment effect for lansoprazole was observed for any asthma outcome.

Not only did lansoprazole not help, the treatment group experienced more adverse effects, including respiratory infections (relative risk 1.3), sore throats (RR 1.3), and episodes of bronchitis (RR 2.2).  Though not statistically significant, the treatment group had more activity-related fractures, six compared to one in the placebo group.

This study took several years to complete (2007-2010).  I congratulate the authors, especially the third author Benjamin Gold, for this excellent work.

Additional references:

The Medical Pendulum and Gastroesophageal Reflux

GERD and respiratory/ENT issues:

  • Gastroenterology 2009; 137: 1844. Critical review of below NEJM article. ‘a subset of asthmatics will have objective detection of GERD without typical symptoms…work by Amer Lung Assn suggests that twice daily PPI will not be helpful’..however, ‘perhaps 3-6months of PPI may still be reasonable until we can accurately identify subgroups of pts who may respond.’ –Gary Falk, Cleveland Clinic
  • NEJM 2009; 360: 1487, 1551. Use of PPIs (nexium 40mg bid) in poorly-controlled asthma with no symptoms of GER –did not help w asthma control & pH studies were not predictive of response. n=412 adults. 40% c abnl pH studies in each group (nexium vs. placebo).
  • Clin Gastro & Hep 2007; 5: 1379. Review of ENT findings and reflux.
  • Am J Gastro 2007; 102: 716. Poor specificity of ENT findings for diagnosis of laryngopharyngeal reflux.
  • Aliment Pharm Ther 2007; 25: 385-92. meta-analysis. Rx c PPIs not more effective than placebo in resolving ENT symptoms presumed to be due to GER. Editorial suggests some patients may benefit, but better tools are needed to identify them.
  • Gastroenterology 2010; 139: 1887. PPIs decreased postnasal drainage compared to placebo. n=75. (50% vs 5%) age discrepancy in patient populations.
  • Clin Gastro & Hep 2010; 8: 741 (excellent editorial), 770 (article on rabeprazole improving heartburn Sx in pts with laryngitis), n=82. Editorial suggests 1-2month trial of BID PPI and if not effective, then little to offer. May change when studies looking at surgery (after impedance) outcomes.
  • Gastroenterology 2010; 139: 754. 716 (editorial). Acoustic cough & reflux. Study recorded cough during pH measurement. n=71. ‘causality cannot be established until effective treatment’ available.

6 thoughts on “Treating reflux does not help asthma

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