QuestionI've heard that long-acting beta agonists (LABAs) can cause severe asthma attacks. Should I stop taking them?
In some studies, long-acting beta agonists (LABAs) have been linked to life-threatening asthma attacks. The risk appears to be greatest when a LABA is used without also using an inhaled corticosteroid. In contrast, taking a LABA with an inhaled corticosteroid is appropriate treatment for many people who have asthma. Don't stop any of your asthma medications before checking with your doctor.
LABAs are used on a regular schedule to open narrowed airways and prevent asthma attacks. But because they increase the risk of having a life-threatening asthma attack, the Food and Drug Administration warns that LABAs should never be used without an inhaled corticosteroid. So if you're taking a LABA without an inhaled corticosteroid, check with your doctor.
- Salmeterol (Serevent Diskus)
- Formoterol (Perforomist)
- Arformoterol (Brovana)
A LABA should be taken with an inhaled corticosteroid, such as:
- Fluticasone (Flovent HFA, Flovent Diskus)
- Budesonide (Pulmicort Flexhaler, Pulmicort Respules)
- Mometasone (Asmanex HFA)
- Flunisolide (Aerospan)
- Beclomethasone (Qvar)
Another option is to take a medication that combines both a corticosteroid and a LABA. There are four of these medications on the market:
- Fluticasone and salmeterol (Advair Diskus, Advair HFA)
- Budesonide and formoterol (Symbicort)
- Mometasone and formoterol (Dulera)
- Fluticasone and vilanterol (Breo Ellipta)
Children who need both a LABA and a corticosteroid should take them only as a combination medication, and not as separate medications.
The benefits of LABAs to keep asthma under control generally outweigh the risks — if they're used as recommended. If you have any questions about your asthma medications, talk to your doctor.