Stepping down inhaled corticosteroids from scheduled to as needed in stable asthma: Systematic review and meta-analysis

Michael R. Gionfriddo, John B. Hagan, Christina R. Hagan, Gerald W. Volcheck, Ana Castaneda-Guarderas, Matthew A. Rank

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Background: Many patients with asthma are potentially overtreated, which results in unnecessary cost and unnecessary exposure to drugs that may result in adverse events. Step down helps reduce overtreatment, may mitigate these harms, and is advocated by major guidelines. Unfortunately, data that support step down are sparse. Objectives: This systematic review aimed to examine the effect of stepping down from scheduled inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) to as-needed ICS in patients with stable asthma. Methods: Several electronic databases were systematically searched in April 2014. Articles were screened independently in duplicate. Studies were required to have at least a 12-week follow-up duration and to have compared stepping down from scheduled ICS to as-needed ICS and maintenance of scheduled ICS. Patients were required to have stable asthma as evidenced by at least 4 weeks without asthma exacerbation before intervention. Results: A total of 3025 abstracts were retrieved initially, 77 of which were retrieved for full-text screening. Of these, only two articles were found to be eligible for inclusion, both were randomized controlled trials. By using random effects meta-analysis, it was determined that, after a follow-up of 6-10 months, the relative risk of exacerbation of stepping down from scheduled to as-needed ICS was 1.32 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.81-2.16; p = 0.27, I2 = 0%). Those who did not step down had more symptom-free days (standard mean difference 0.26 [95% CI, 0.02- 0.49; p = 0.03; I2 = 22%]). Conclusion: There is currently insufficient evidence to associate stepping down from scheduled to as-needed ICS with a change in exacerbations, although it may lead to fewer symptom-free days.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)262-267
Number of pages6
JournalAllergy and Asthma Proceedings
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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