Treatment study seeks African-Americans with asthma

Doctors at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis are seeking African-Americans with asthma to participate in a new study evaluating treatment for this common breathing disorder.

The study is the first to focus exclusively on African-American adults and children with asthma, who have disproportionately high rates of the condition and may not respond to standard treatments as well as other groups.

“We want to learn how best to step up treatment for African-Americans whose asthma is not well-controlled with typical first-line medications,” said principal investigator Leonard B. Bacharier, MD, professor of pediatrics. “Each participant will receive four different asthma treatments over the course of the study in an effort to understand which may be best in terms of outcomes and side effects.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, African-Americans have more asthma-related doctor visits, hospitalizations and deaths compared with Caucasians. It’s not clear how much of this difference can be attributed to social, economic or genetic factors. The study’s investigators will collect DNA samples from participants in an effort to identify genetic factors that may be at work in this disparity.

The study, called Best African-American Response to Asthma Drugs (BARD), includes adults and children age 5 or older at the time of enrollment. Washington University School of Medicine and St. Louis Children’s Hospital are among 30 medical centers nationwide participating in the study.

To be eligible, patients must be on a daily medication for asthma control, usually a low-dose inhaled steroid. Bacharier said patients who self-identify as African-American and have at least one African-American grandparent are eligible for the study.

The study will involve 15 to 18 clinic visits over about 15 months. Patients will be asked to take breathing tests and give blood and urine samples. The study doctors will ask patients to answer questions about their asthma and overall health as well as keep an electronic diary to record how they are feeling between clinic visits.

Bacharier, an asthma specialist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, said all medications will be provided to participants at no cost. The study drugs include an inhaled corticosteroid, which reduces inflammation, and a long-acting beta agonist, which opens up the airway.

The drugs, fluticasone (Flovent) and fluticasone/salmeterol (Advair), are FDA-approved and available by prescription. The study will test two different doses of each of these medications for a total of four treatment regimens. All patients will receive all four treatments over the course of the study, but the order of the treatments will be randomly assigned to each patient. Participants will receive compensation for their time and effort.

For more information about the study, please contact the BARD study coordinator at 314-286-1173 or 1-866-841-2273.

The BARD study is a part of the AsthmaNet clinical trials network, supported by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes Health (NIH). (5-U10-HL098098-04)

Washington University School of Medicine’s 2,100 employed 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 sixth 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.