Although intravenous chlorpheniramine can cause bronchodilatation, oral and parenteral antihistamines have not proved useful in treating asthma. Inhaled antihistamines may cause throat irritation, but a recent study of the antihistamine, clemastine, showed it to be an effective bronchodilator without irritant effects. We have extended these studies to determine the site of action of inhaled clemastine and to assess its potential usefulness both as a bronchodilator and as a maintenance treatment. Eleven stable asthmatic patients received inhaled clemastine and placebo and the effect was assessed by serial maximum expiratory flow volume (MEFV) curves breathing air and a helium/oxygen (He/O2) mixture. There was no significant improvement in peak flow rates during air breathing after clemastine and no significant difference between the responses to drug and placebo. Minor but significant changes were seen in some flow measurements on the downslope of the MEFV curve during air and He/O2 breathing, and these are tentatively ascribed to a dilating effect of clemastine on peripheral airways where flow is laminar. Subsequent administration of inhaled isoprenaline showed the patients to be still capable of significant bronchodilatation. The addition of clemastine, from a pressurised aerosol, to the patients' therapeutic regimen for two weeks was no more effective than placebo in controlling airflow obstruction, and did not reduce the need for standard bronchodilators. In our patients clemastine was not a clinically useful bronchodilator either acutely or as a maintenance treatment for asthma.
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