Article Text

Download PDFPDF

Research and Guideline updates
Guidelines for the diagnosis and management of asthma: a look at the key differences between BTS/SIGN and NICE
  1. John White1,
  2. James Y Paton2,
  3. Robert Niven3,
  4. Hilary Pinnock4
  5. on behalf of the British Thoracic Society
  1. 1 Respiratory Medicine, York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, York, North Yorkshire, UK
  2. 2 School of Medicine, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK
  3. 3 MAHSC, The University of Manchester and Manchester Foundation Trust, Manchester, UK
  4. 4 Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research, Usher Institute of Population Health Sciences and Informatics, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr John White, The York Hospital, York YO31 8HE, UK; John.White{at}York.NHS.UK

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.

The British Thoracic Society (BTS) first produced a guideline on asthma and its management in 1990. The first collaborative guideline with the Scottish Intercollegiate Guideline Network (SIGN) using evidence-based medicine methodology was published in 2003.1 It has since become a mainstay of asthma management across the UK and beyond with updates published regularly every 18–24 months. The latest BTS/SIGN guideline for the management of asthma was published in 2016.2 Both BTS and SIGN are committed to continuing updates with the next update planned for publication in 2019.

Following publication of National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines for diagnosis and monitoring, and for management of chronic asthma,3–5 there are now two if not three national guidelines, for England at least, with some (apparently) striking differences. This statement considers the similarities and differences to assist clinical colleagues in the care of people with asthma.

The evidence base considered by the BTS/SIGN and NICE guideline development groups is broadly the same for each guideline, but the methodology used to produce recommendations is significantly different:

  • SIGN methodology is a multidisciplinary clinically led process which employs robust critical appraisal of the literature, coupled with consideration of pragmatic studies to ensure that guidelines provide clinically relevant recommendations.

  • NICE methodology overlays critical appraisal of the literature with health economic modelling, with interpretation supported by advice from a multidisciplinary guideline development group.

These different processes have resulted in some discrepancies in recommendations made by BTS/SIGN and NICE. This article seeks to provide some context to these differences in key areas:

  • Diagnosis

  • Pharmacological management:

    • Treatment at diagnosis.

    • The introduction of leukotriene receptor antagonists (LTRA) after low-dose inhaled corticosteroids (ICS).

    • Maintenance and reliever therapy (MART).

    • Treatment beyond combined inhaler therapy.

    • Some other issues in managing asthma in children.

The BTS/SIGN guideline also provides recommendations …

View Full Text

Linked Articles