Asthma drug helps shed pounds

According to new research, a drug commonly used to treat asthma and COPD may also burn fat.

When taken in pill form, the drug formoterol boosted fat burning while preserving protein metabolism, and muscle mass.

Fat burning was increased up to 25%,” says researcher Paul Lee, MD, PhD, of the Garvan Institute of Medical Research and an endocrinologist at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney, Australia.

Formoterol is used as an inhaled medication for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and is one of the ingredients in Symbicort and Dulera.

In this study, Lee used it in pill form, and gave it to 8 men at a dose of 160 micrograms a day for one week. Before and after the study, he measured the men’s energy rates, fat oxidation, and whole body protein metabolism.  Each time, the measurements were taken after the men drank a standardized, high-carbohydrate liquid meal.

Comparing their before and after rate, their overall energy rate increased by more than 10% and their fat burning by 25%.

Theoretically, an average person weighing 155 pounds could burn an extra 200 calories a day with the pill. Over time, that could translate to noticeable fat loss and maintained or gained muscle.

The inhaled form of the drug can cause tachycardia – an abnormally fast heartbeat, but Lee did not see this side effect in the patients who took the pill form. “Some had insomnia, but it was mild,” he says. It was also temporary. “Some reported loss of appetite.”

In addition to burning fat, the drug might prevent or treat muscle wasting that can accompany age. “It may potentially reverse or prevent this process and treat frailty,” Lee says.

The report is certainly intriguing,” says Bruce Wolfe, MD, President of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery and Professor of Surgery at Oregon Health and Science University, Portland.  However, he cautions that the increase in fat burning is modest. Eating a couple of cookies, or drinking a small glass of wine could undo the benefit. Nevertheless, over time, taking the formoterol could make a noticeable difference.

SRxA’s Word on Health eagerly awaits the results of further studies.

Pediatric Wheezers not such Wizards with Puffers

Regular readers of SRxA’s  Word on Health already know that asthma is the most common chronic childhood disease in the U.S. Direct asthma-related healthcare costs are upwards of $ 6 billion a year and lost productivity costs associated with working parents caring for children who miss school, costs a further billion. Given this huge financial burden we were shocked to learn that fewer than one in 10 children with asthma use their inhalers correctly.

While children have more success with newer inhaler designs, at best, only one child in four gets it completely right, according to the findings published in the journal Pediatrics.

Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Eshelman School of Pharmacy studied 296 patients aged 8 to 16 years old who used four different devices to manage their asthma.

The devices were:

  • metered-dose inhaler (commonly called a puffer)
  • diskus, (a dry-powder inhaler delivering Advair)
  • turbuhaler (a dry-powder inhaler delivering Pulmicort or Symbicort)
  • peak-flow meter, which does not deliver a drug but is used to measure lung function to determine if medicine is needed

Only 8% of children in the study performed all of the metered-dose inhaler steps correctly. Older children were more likely than younger children to get more of the metered-dose inhaler steps correct. With a diskus, 22% of children performed all steps correctly, and 15.6% performed all of the turbuhaler steps correctly. Children using a peak-flow meter did so correctly 24% of the time.

The researchers also found that the majority of health-care providers who participated in the study did not demonstrate or assess children’s use of the four devices during pediatric asthma visits.

It is crucial that health-care providers not only show a child how to use an inhaler correctly but also have the child demonstrate the device in front of a physician or pharmacist,” said lead investigator Betsy Sleath Ph.D. “Pediatric practices are extremely busy places so we need innovative ways to demonstrate and assess device technique among asthmatic children.”

Improper use of inhalers and other asthma medication devices can lead to poor control of the condition, more hospitalizations and increased health-care costs.

SRxA’s team of leading asthma experts can help design programs to teach healthcare professionals how to teach patients about their asthma therapy.  These validated programs have been shown to dramatically increase compliance and adherence.  Contact us today to learn more.