FDA Approves Removal of Asthma-Related Death Box Warnings From Certain Asthma Medicines

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America is sharing this press release from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to bring you the latest research news quickly.


[PRESS RELEASE]

Long-Acting Beta agonists (LABAs) and Inhaled Corticosteroids (ICS): Drug Safety Communication - Boxed Warning About Asthma-Related Death Removed

[Posted 12/20/2017]

AUDIENCE: Pharmacy, Pulmonology, Internal Medicine, Family Practice

ISSUE: FDA's most prominent warning, the Boxed Warning, about asthma-related death has been removed from the drug labels of medicines that contain both an ICS and LABA. A FDA review of four large clinical safety trials shows that treating asthma with long-acting beta agonists (LABAs) in combination with inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) does not result in significantly more serious asthma-related side effects than treatment with ICS alone. A description of the four trials is now also included in the Warnings and Precautions section of the drug labels. These trials showed that LABAs, when used with ICS, did not significantly increase the risk of asthma-related hospitalizations, the need to insert a breathing tube known as intubation, or asthma-related deaths, compared to ICS alone.  

BACKGROUND: In 2011, FDA required the drug companies manufacturing fixed-dose combination drugs containing an ICS and LABA (GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Astra Zeneca) to conduct several large, 26-week, randomized, double-blind, active-controlled clinical safety trials to evaluate the risk of serious asthma-related events when long-acting beta agonists (LABAs) were used in fixed-dose combination with an inhaled corticosteroid (ICS) compared to ICS alone in patients with asthma. FDA reviewed the results of four trials involving 41,297 patients. The results demonstrate that the use of ICS/LABA in fixed-dose combination does not result in a significant increase in the risk of serious asthma-related events compared to ICS alone. The results of subgroup analyses for gender, adolescents 12-18 years, and African Americans are consistent with the primary endpoint results. 

The four trials also assessed efficacy of the ICS/LABA products. The primary efficacy endpoint was asthma exacerbation, defined as a deterioration of asthma requiring the use of systemic corticosteroids for at least 3 days, or an in-patient hospitalization or emergency department visit due to asthma that required systemic corticosteroids. The results showed that the ICS/LABA combination reduced asthma exacerbations compared to ICS alone, noting that the majority of these exacerbations were those that required at least 3 days of systemic corticosteroids. This efficacy information has been added to the Clinical Studies section of the ICS/LABA drug labels.

RECOMMENDATION: Health care professionals should refer to the most recently approved drug labels for recommendations on using ICS/LABA medicines (see links in Table 1 of the Drug Safety Communication). Patients and parents/caregivers should talk to your health care professional if you have any questions or concerns. Do not stop taking your asthma medicines without first talking to your health care professional. Also read the patient information leaflet that comes with every prescription.

Healthcare professionals and patients are encouraged to report adverse events or side effects related to the use of these products to the FDA's MedWatch Safety Information and Adverse Event Reporting Program:

  • Complete and submit the report Online: www.fda.gov/MedWatch/report
  • Download form or call 1-800-332-1088 to request a reporting form, then complete and return to the address on the pre-addressed form, or submit by fax to 1-800-FDA-0178


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