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Safety probe into asthma drugs

The UK drug regulator is to investigate use of long-acting ß-agonists in asthma amid growing concerns over their safety, Pulse can reveal.

The decision follows two recent studies suggesting the drugs could increase mortality, whether or not they are prescribed with inhaled steroids, writes Daniel Cressey.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency will be conducting a detailed analysis of all adverse events data on the drugs.

Figures obtained by Pulse suggest large numbers of GPs are not following guidance on their use. Nearly 40 per cent of asthma patients on long-acting ß-agonists do not have inhaled steroid scripts, according to data from private analysts CompuFile.

An MHRA spokesperson told Pulse: 'On review of the latest evidence the Commission on Human Medicines has advised there is a need for further communications, research and analysis on safety.'

It follows calls by two specialists in the latest issue of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine to suspend GP use of the drugs. Dr Vassilis Vassiliou, respiratory consultant at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, said a patient with asthma severe enough to need the drugs 'should be managed by a specialist rather than in primary care'.

Dr Dermot Ryan, a member of the General Practice Airways Group, disagreed: 'It's a grave mistake for European authors to draw upon poorly constructed US studies.'

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