Heart drug may help asthma patients

February 17, 2009 12:28:26 PM PST
Use a beta-blocker for your asthma? A University of Houston scientist believes that common heart drug may be the best way to control chronic asthma. The idea is controversial but his research is being published, just as FDA scientists take a second look at the safety of current asthma drugs.

Danielle Brasuell can't count the times her asthma landed her in the emergency room.

"It's a scary thing to have when you cannot breathe it's like the end of the world," said Danielle Brasuell.

But taking her asthma medicine is like drinking espresso.

"It really gets you going it increases your heart rate and makes my ears ring," said Brasuell.

But stimulant or not, she must take it.

"It's got a lot of nasty side effects in fact I take 12 vitamins just to counteract those side effects," she said.

A University of Houston professor says there may be a better way. Medicines to prevent asthma attack have stimulants, he suggests just the opposite using a beta blocker -- the heart drug used by millions of heart patients.

"I do think it may decrease the incidence of asthma attacks and possibility the severity," said Dr. Richard Bond, PHD with the University of Houston.

In a joint medical center study, Bond said 8 out of 10 asthma patients who took beta blockers had significant improvement. But giving an asthma patient a beta blocker is controversial: bond says it makes asthma worse and then better.

"It was making their airways less hyper-responsive," said Dr. Bond.

That means less likely to have an asthma attack. His research is being published this month in "the proceedings of the national academy of science. The FDA is also taking a second look at the safety of long acting asthma stimulants. But Dr. Bond says asthmatics should not throw out their inhalers yet. Beta stimulants are still life savers:

"Acutely these drugs are wonderful they save lives during an asthma attack there's nothing better but when you give them 24 hrs a day 7 days a week the risks start to outweigh the benefits," said Dr. Bond.

Brasuell is watching with interest, wondering if something as simple as a daily heart pill might someday keep her breathing without fear.

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