Dr. Kim Mulvihill reportingNew research led by scientists at UCSF may change how some asthma patients are treated. And, the shift will save money.
For someone with asthma taking a deep breath isn't taken for granted. Asthma can mean wheezing, shortness of breath and pain. During an attack the smooth muscle wall of the airway gets swollen from inflammation and constricts. Breathing is difficult and the body gets less oxygen.
To prevent flare-ups from happening, doctors usually recommend daily drugs called controllers-- things like steroids or leukotriene modulators
Homer Boushey, M.D./ UCSF Research: "The controller drugs reduce inflammation in the airways and reduce this tendency to contract, make the airways less sensitive to things."
However, new research suggests those daily drugs might be overkill -- that people with mild asthma could do just as well using their medications only when needed. In reality, many already do.
"Sometimes you know this word, this term 'folk wisdom.' Physicians have learned to respect it because there is some wisdom in the way people behave."
UCSF's Dr. Homer Boushey is the lead author of the study.
He says, "People are sort of resistant to taking medications to reduce their future risk if they are feeling ok. Well, it turns out if a patient has mild asthma, if they do it this way with their inhaled steroids that might be ok."
Even so, Dr. Boushey warns that asthma patients should not stop using their controller medications without first checking with their doctor. This is not a strategy for children or those with moderate or severe asthma.