Children’s study to determine if asthma medications can reduce need for steroids

Children between the ages of 6 and 17 years old with moderate-to-severe asthma may be eligible for a study at Washington University School of Medicine to evaluate whether two medications can reduce the amount of inhaled steroids needed to control asthma.

The 30-week trial, called MARS (Montelukast or Azithromycin for Reduction of Inhaled Corticosteroids in Childhood Asthma), is part of a national study sponsored by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

“This study is important because long-term inhaled steroid use may have side effects, such as reduced growth,” says Robert C. Strunk, M.D., professor of pediatrics and the principal investigator of the St. Louis study site. “Through this study, we will also learn more about the characteristics of children with moderate-to-severe asthma.”

Children who qualify will be assigned to receive either an inactive placebo or one of two drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration: Zithromax or Singulair.

In adult studies, Zithromax, an antibiotic, and Singulair, an asthma drug, have allowed adults to reduce the amount of inhaled steroids needed to control asthma.

Volunteers will receive 10 health assessments and study medication free of charge. They also will be compensated for their time.

Children with severe asthma make up only about 5 to 10 percent of children with the disease, according to Strunk. “But these children have the most problems because of their asthma, take more asthma medications and are more likely to be hospitalized and miss school,” he says.

For more information about the study, call (314) 286-1173.

Washington University School of Medicine’s full-time and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient care institutions in the nation, currently ranked second in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.