History and future perspectives of treating asthma as a systemic and small airways disease

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Asthma is an inflammatory disorder in which the small airways of the lung play an important role. There is also evidence for the systemic nature of asthma. No current method adequately measures small airways function alone. Therefore, a combination of functional and clinical parameters should be used to ensure that patients with asthma are adequately treated with due consideration of the small airways. Previously therapeutic strategies have focused on bronchodilation and attenuation of airway inflammation.While early oral therapies had the advantage of reaching the small airways and treating the systemic aspect of asthma, they were associated with serious side-effects. Inhaled therapies were therefore developed to limit these effects. However, inhaled therapies have the disadvantage of limited penetration into the peripheral airways and an inability to treat the systemic component of asthma. They are also associated with local and systemic side-effects. The future for asthma treatment is likely to be a systemically administered medication with few side-effects targeting disease-specific mediators. The leukotriene receptor antagonists and anti-IgE monoclonal antibodies are examples of such therapies and the emergence of other new strategies is awaited.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)703-719
JournalRespiratory Medicine
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2001

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Respiratory Medicine and Allergy


  • asthma
  • inflammation
  • small airways
  • systemic
  • leukotriene receptor antagonists


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