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Medicine & Science
A Visit with Dr. William J. Calhoun
by Jim Guidry with photos by Lynda Guidry
Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston today announced results of a study funded by the National Institutes of Health in conjunction with the Asthma Clinical Research Network that shows that millions of mild asthma patients may not need daily inhaled steroid therapy and instead would benefit from taking the medicine only when symptoms occur.  News Release

Dr. William J. Calhoun, Renfert Professor and Vice Chair for Research in Internal Medicine at UTMB and the lead researcher on the project, visited with Guidry News Service about the study and its implications for asthma patients. Listen

“The ACRN has been in business for about 15 years and has done some of the best asthma research that’s been published in this country,” Dr. Calhoun said.  “So we are very fortunate to have been involved with the ACRN; and the trial that we just completed and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association is the capstone trial of the ACRN, the final trial of the ACRN before it is moved on to a different implementation.”

Dr. Calhoun described the study called "the BASALT trial", using an acronym for the Best Adjustment Strategy for Asthma in the Long Term, which examined three methods of administering corticosteroids to control mild asthma.

The first approach was to use standard United States Guidelines, which calls for administration of corticosteroids on a daily basis; the second approach was to adjust the inhaled dosage based on a measurable bio-marker of airway inflammation; and the third was for the patient to inhale the steroids only when symptoms occur.

He said the Symptom-Based Approach can result in a reduction of the dosage by half, which also results in a financial savings to the patient.  However, Dr. Calhoun cautioned that the strategy is not for all asthma patients and would not be appropriate for those with more severe asthma.

“The message of this study is that not all asthmatic patients should take their medicines only when they have symptoms, rather that there is a significant subset of asthma that might well be managed by symptom based approach, that would empower patients to take control of their own asthma, would allow them to achieve control of their asthma with a reduced dose of steroids,” he said, encouraging asthma patients to discuss treatment options with their doctors.

Results of the study are published in the September 12 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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