African-American children respond differently to common asthma treatments

A study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that African-Americans with poorly controlled asthma responded differently to commonly used treatments.

Researchers conducted two clinical trials. One enrolled 284 children age 5 to 11, and compared two main treatments: five times the normal dose of steroid (steroids are the standard treatment) versus doubling the steroid dose and adding a bronchodilator (used to help open airways).The other trial enrolled 291 adolescents and adults, and compared two increases in the steroid and bronchodilator doses.

In adolescents and adults, the results were similar to those seen in previous studies that involved mostly people of European descent. The results in children, however, showed that half had better controlled asthma when adding a bronchodilator. Just as many responded better to increasing the dose of steroid. Researchers also found no link between genetic African ancestry and response to asthma treatment.

The study highlights the current treatment strategies for asthma may not be ideal for all African Americans, especially because of the lack of representation in prior studies.

“These results provide new data about the management of asthma patients who self-identify as African American regardless of genetic ancestry,” said James Kiley, Ph.D., director of the Division of Lung Diseases at NHLBI. “Every person and their provider should explore all of their management choices to achieve maximum asthma control, based on their response to specific medications.” The study was funded by NHLBI.

Media Coverage

NIH Research Matters
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution