What's the difference between the different kinds of asthma medications?
There are eight general types of medications used to treat asthma. Some are considered
long-term control medications; they are used daily to prevent asthma symptoms and attacks.
Others are quick-relief medications, used in the event of an asthma attack.
Long-term control medication controls inflammation and swelling in the lungs' airways. Patients are directed to take this type of medication every day-even if they are feeling fine. There are six types of these drugs:
- Inhaled corticosteroids are considered the most powerful long-term control therapy.
Examples are QVAR® (beclomethasone),
- Oral corticosteroids are usually prescribed for patients with severe persistent
asthma or who experience acute asthma attacks. Examples include prednisone and methylprednisone
- Mast cell stabilizers are used to prevent exercise-induced asthma. An example is Intal®
- Long-acting beta 2 agonists relax and open bronchial tubes. An example is Foradil®
(formoteral). A combination drug that both relaxes and opens airways, and reduces inflammation
is Advair® (salmeterol
relaxes airways and may prevent inflammation.
- Anti-leukotriene agents are a relatively new class of long-term control drugs. These
(zafirlukast) and Singulair®
Quick-relief medications are for use during an asthma attack. Unlike long-term control medications, they do not reduce inflammation. Instead, they relax and open airways to increase airflow.
- Short-acting beta agonists include inhaled drugs such as Proventil®
(ipratropium) often is prescribed for patients who cannot tolerate beta-agonist side
If you are being treated for asthma, be sure you understand when to use your medications. If
your current asthma treatment does not include a long-acting medication, discuss with your
physician if one is right for you.
Get more information about your medication.