Asthma controller therapy: Role of antileukotrienes, a new therapeutic class

L. Allegra, G. W. Canonica, C. F. Donner, V. Fogliani, G. Melillo, A. Mistretta, P. L. Paggiaro, G. A. Rossi, C. M. Sanguinetti, M. Vignola

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Asthma is a chronic disease and should be treated with both controller and reliever drugs. Asthma controller therapy is not used sufficiently widely, probably due to low compliance with inhaled drugs, lack of response in some patients to low-medium doses of inhaled steroids and possible adverse events. This review analyses a new class of antiasthmatic drugs, leukotriene receptor antagonists (antileukotrienes). At present, two antileukotrienes are available in Italy: zafirlukast and montelukast. Antileukotrienes improve symptoms and also inhibit the effects of some of the inflammatory mediators involved in the pathogenesis of asthma; therefore, antileukotrienes may be used in monotherapy. In addition, the oral administration route is an advantage for compliance. Antileukotrienes significantly improve pulmonary function, asthma symptoms and inhaled and oral steroid and short-acting β-agonist use. Moreover, antileukotrienes produce a 50% mean reduction in the incidence of asthma exacerbations compared with placebo. From the economic point of view, asthma controller therapy using antileukotrienes is associated with a > 50% (compared with placebo) reduction in healthcare costs (hospitalization due to asthma exacerbation, healthcare contact and absenteeism from work or school), which globally account for 93% of asthma-related costs. Antileukotrienes are indicated in the treatment of persistent mild-to-severe asthma, seasonal allergic asthma, exercise-induced asthma and aspirin-induced asthma. Antileukotrienes are well tolerated independently of the duration of treatment and the incidence of the observed adverse events is substantially similar to that observed using placebo. Owing to good tolerability and compliance and the economic advantages, these agents may be considered a valid therapeutic option for the control and management of asthma as a chronic disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)136-145
Number of pages10
JournalMonaldi Archives for Chest Disease - Cardiac Series
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1999


  • Asthma
  • Leukotriene receptor antagonists
  • Leukotrienes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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