BACKGROUND--Fluticasone propionate is a new inhaled corticosteroid with a 2:1 efficacy ratio compared with beclomethasone dipropionate with regard to lung function and symptom scores, without increased systemic activity. The aim of this study was to investigate whether this was also the case for bronchial hyperresponsiveness, assessed by both a direct (histamine) and an indirect (ultrasonically nebulised distilled water (UNDW)) provocation test. METHODS--Fluticasone propionate, 750 micrograms/day, and beclomethasone dipropionate, 1500 micrograms/day, were compared in a randomised, double blind, crossover study consisting of two six week treatment periods, each preceded by a three week single blind placebo period. Twenty one non-smoking asthmatics (mean forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) 74.7% predicted, mean PC20histamine 0.36 mg/ml) completed the study. RESULTS--Fluticasone propionate and beclomethasone dipropionate improved FEV1, peak flow rates, asthma symptoms, and bronchial hyperresponsiveness to the same extent. Both fluticasone propionate and beclomethasone dipropionate caused an increase in PC20histamine (mean 2.29 [95% confidence interval 1.45 to 3.13] and 1.95 [1.07 to 2.84] doubling doses, respectively) and in PD20UNDW (1.12 [0.55 to 1.70] and 1.28 [0.88 to 1.70] doubling doses, respectively). Neither treatment changed morning serum cortisol levels, but fluticasone propionate decreased the number of peripheral blood eosinophils less than beclomethasone dipropionate, indicating smaller systemic effects of fluticasone propionate. CONCLUSIONS--These findings show that fluticasone propionate is as effective as twice the dose of beclomethasone dipropionate on bronchial hyperresponsiveness, assessed by provocation with both histamine and UNDW, without increased systemic activity.
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