May 25, 2017
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Pulmicort Turbuhaler

"In an article published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood, two respiratory specialists claim that doctors are overdiagnosing asthma in children, with inhalers being prescribed needlessly.

According to Asthma UK, 1.1 mill"...


Pulmicort Turbuhaler


Mechanism of Action

Budesonide is an anti-inflammatory corticosteroid that exhibits potent glucocorticoid activity and weak mineralocorticoid activity. In standard in vitro and animal models, budesonide has approximately a 200-fold higher affinity for the glucocorticoid receptor and a 1000-fold higher topical anti-inflammatory potency than cortisol (rat croton oil ear edema assay). As a measure of systemic activity, budesonide is 40 times more potent than cortisol when administered subcutaneously and 25 times more potent when administered orally in the rat thymus involution assay.

The activity of PULMICORT TURBUHALER is due to the parent drug, budesonide. In glucocorticoid receptor affinity studies, the 22R form was two times as active as the 22S epimer. In vitro studies indicated that the two forms of budesonide do not interconvert.

The precise mechanism of corticosteroid actions on inflammation in asthma is not known. Inflammation is an important component in the pathogenesis of asthma. Corticosteroids have been shown to have a wide range of inhibitory activities against multiple cell types (eg, mast cells, eosinophils, neutrophils, macrophages, and lymphocytes) and mediators (eg, histamine, eicosanoids, leukotrienes, and cytokines) involved in allergic and non-allergic-mediated inflammation. These anti-inflammatory actions of corticosteroids may contribute to their efficacy in asthma.

Studies in asthmatic patients have shown a favorable ratio between topical anti-inflammatory activity and systemic corticosteroid effects over a wide range of doses from PULMICORT TURBUHALER (budesonide) . This is explained by a combination of a relatively high local anti-inflammatory effect, extensive first pass hepatic degradation of orally absorbed drug (85-95%), and the low potency of formed metabolites (see below).


After oral administration of budesonide, peak plasma concentration was achieved in about 1 to 2 hours and the absolute systemic availability was 6-13%. In contrast, most of budesonide delivered to the lungs is systemically absorbed. In healthy subjects, 34% of the metered dose was deposited in the lungs (as assessed by plasma concentration method) with an absolute systemic availability of 39% of the metered dose. Pharmacokinetics of budesonide do not differ significantly in healthy volunteers and asthmatic patients. Peak plasma concentrations of budesonide occurred within 30 minutes of inhalation from PULMICORT TURBUHALER.

In asthmatic patients, budesonide showed a linear increase in AUC and Cmax with increasing dose after both a single dose and repeated dosing from PULMICORT TURBUHALER (budesonide) .

The volume of distribution of budesonide was approximately 3 L/kg. It was 85-90% bound to plasma proteins. Protein binding was constant over the concentration range (1-100 nmol/L) achieved with, and exceeding, recommended doses of PULMICORT TURBUHALER. Budesonide showed little or no binding to corticosteroid binding globulin. Budesonide rapidly equilibrated with red blood cells in a concentration independent manner with a blood/plasma ratio of about 0.8.

In vitro studies with human liver homogenates have shown that budesonide is rapidly and extensively metabolized. Two major metabolites formed via cytochrome P450 (CYP) isoenzyme 3A4 (CYP3A4) catalyzed biotransformation have been isolated and identified as 16α-hydroxyprednisolone and 6β-hydroxybudesonide. The corticosteroid activity of each of these two metabolites is less than 1% of that of the parent compound. No qualitative differences between the in vitro and in vivo metabolic patterns have been detected. Negligible metabolic inactivation was observed in human lung and serum preparations.

The 22R form of budesonide was preferentially cleared by the liver with systemic clearance of 1.4 L/min vs. 1.0 L/min for the 22S form. The terminal half-life, 2 to 3 hours, was the same for both epimers and was independent of dose. Budesonide was excreted in urine and feces in the form of metabolites. Approximately 60% of an intravenous radiolabelled dose was recovered in the urine. No unchanged budesonide was detected in the urine.

Special Populations:
No pharmacokinetic differences have been identified due to race, gender or advanced age.

Following intravenous dosing in pediatric patients age 10-14 years, plasma half-life was shorter than in adults (1.5 hours vs. 2.0 hours in adults). In the same population following inhalation of budesonide via a pressurized metered-dose inhaler, absolute systemic availability was similar to that in adults.

Hepatic Insufficiency:
Reduced liver function may affect the elimination of corticosteroids. The pharmacokinetics of budesonide were affected by compromised liver function as evidenced by a doubled systemic availability after oral ingestion. The intravenous pharmacokinetics of budesonide were, however, similar in cirrhotic patients and in healthy subjects.

Drug-Drug Interactions:
Ketoconazole, a potent inhibitor of cytochrome P450 (CYP) isoenzyme 3A4 (CYP3A4), the main metabolic enzyme for corticosteroids, increased plasma levels of orally ingested budesonide. At recommended doses, cimetidine had a slight but clinically insignificant effect on the pharmacokinetics of oral budesonide.


To confirm that systemic absorption is not a significant factor in the clinical efficacy of inhaled budesonide, a clinical study in patients with asthma was performed comparing 400 mcg budesonide administered via a pressurized metered-dose inhaler with a tube spacer to 1400 mcg of oral budesonide and placebo. The study demonstrated the efficacy of inhaled budesonide but not orally ingested budesonide despite comparable systemic levels. Thus, the therapeutic effect of conventional doses of orally inhaled budesonide are largely explained by its direct action on the respiratory tract.

Generally, PULMICORT TURBUHALER (budesonide) has a relatively rapid onset of action for an inhaled corticosteroid. Improvement in asthma control following inhalation of PULMICORT TURBUHALER (budesonide) can occur within 24 hours of beginning treatment although maximum benefit may not be achieved for 1 to 2 weeks, or longer.

PULMICORT TURBUHALER (budesonide) has been shown to decrease airway reactivity in various challenge models, including histamine, methacholine, sodium metabisulfite, and adenosine monophosphate in patients with hyperreactive airways. The clinical relevance of these models is not certain.

Pretreatment with PULMICORT TURBUHALER (budesonide) 1600 mcg daily (800 mcg twice daily) for 2 weeks reduced the acute (early-phase reaction) and delayed (late-phase reaction) decrease in FEV1 following inhaled allergen challenge.

The effects of PULMICORT TURBUHALER (budesonide) on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis were studied in 905 adults and 404 pediatric patients with asthma. For most patients, the ability to increase cortisol production in response to stress, as assessed by cosyntropin (ACTH) stimulation test, remained intact with PULMICORT TURBUHALER (budesonide) treatment at recommended doses. For adult patients treated with 100, 200, 400, or 800 mcg twice daily for 12 weeks, 4%, 2%, 6%, and 13% respectively, had an abnormal stimulated cortisol response (peak cortisol <14.5 mcg/dL assessed by liquid chromatography following short-cosyntropin test) as compared with 8% of patients treated with placebo. Similar results were obtained in pediatric patients. In another study in adults, doses of 400, 800 and 1600 mcg budesonide twice daily via PULMICORT TURBUHALER (budesonide) for 6 weeks were examined; 1600 mcg twice daily (twice the maximum recommended dose) resulted in a 27% reduction in stimulated cortisol (6-hour ACTH infusion) while 10 mg prednisone resulted in a 35% reduction. In this study, no patient on PULMICORT TURBUHALER (budesonide) at doses of 400 and 800 mcg twice daily met the criterion for an abnormal stimulated cortisol response (peak cortisol <14.5 mcg/dL assessed by liquid chromatography) following ACTH infusion. An open-label, long-term follow-up of 1133 patients for up to 52 weeks confirmed the minimal effect on the HPA axis (both basal and stimulated plasma cortisol) of PULMICORT TURBUHALER (budesonide) when administered at recommended doses. In patients who had previously been oral steroid-dependent, use of PULMICORT TURBUHALER (budesonide) in recommended doses was associated with higher stimulated cortisol response compared with baseline following 1 year of therapy.

The administration of budesonide via PULMICORT TURBUHALER (budesonide) in doses up to 800 mcg/day (mean daily dose 445 mcg/day) or via a pressurized metered-dose inhaler in doses up to 1200 mcg/day (mean daily dose 620 mcg/day) to 216 pediatric patients (age 3 to 11 years) for 2 to 6 years had no significant effect on statural growth compared with non-corticosteroid therapy in 62 matched control patients. However, the long-term effect of PULMICORT TURBUHALER (budesonide) on growth is not fully known.

Clinical Trails

The therapeutic efficacy of PULMICORT TURBUHALER (budesonide) has been evaluated in controlled clinical trials involving more than 1300 patients (6 years and older) with asthma of varying disease duration (<1 year to >20 years) and severity.

Double-blind, parallel, placebo-controlled clinical trials of 12 weeks duration and longer have shown that, compared with placebo, PULMICORT TURBUHALER (budesonide) significantly improved lung function (measured by PEF and FEV1), significantly decreased morning and evening symptoms of asthma, and significantly reduced the need for as-needed inhaled β2-agonist use at doses of 400 mcg to 1600 mcg per day (200 mcg to 800 mcg twice daily) in adults and 400 mcg to 800 mcg per day (200 mcg to 400 mcg twice daily) in pediatric patients 6 years of age and older.

Improved lung function (morning PEF) was observed within 24 hours of initiating treatment in both adult and pediatric patients 6 years of age and older, although maximum benefit was not achieved for 1 to 2 weeks, or longer, after starting treatment. Improved lung function was maintained throughout the 12 weeks of the double-blind portion of the trials.

Patients Not Receiving Corticosteroid Therapy

In a 12-week clinical trial in 273 patients with mild to moderate asthma (mean baseline FEV1 2.27 L) who were not well controlled by bronchodilators alone, PULMICORT TURBUHALER (budesonide) was evaluated at doses of 200 mcg twice daily and 400 mcg twice daily versus placebo. The FEV1 results from this trial are shown in the figure below. Pulmonary function improved significantly on both doses of PULMICORT TURBUHALER (budesonide) compared with placebo.

A 12-Week Trial in Patients Not on Corticosteroid Therapy Prior to Study Entry

A 12-Week Trial in Patients Not on Corticosteroid Therapy Prior to Study Entry - illustration

In a 12-month controlled trial in 75 patients not previously receiving corticosteroids, PULMICORT TURBUHALER (budesonide) at 200 mcg twice daily resulted in improved lung function (measured by PEF) and reduced bronchial hyperreactivity compared with placebo.

Patients Previously Maintained on Inhaled Corticosteroids

The safety and efficacy of PULMICORT TURBUHALER (budesonide) was also evaluated in adult and pediatric patients (age 6 to 18 years) previously maintained on inhaled corticosteroids (adults: N=473, mean baseline FEV1 2.04 L, baseline doses of beclomethasone dipropionate 126-1008 mcg/day; pediatrics: N=404, mean baseline FEV1 2.09 L, baseline doses of beclomethasone dipropionate 126-672 mcg/day or triamcinolone acetonide 300-1800 mcg/day). The FEV1 results of these two trials, both 12 weeks in duration, are presented in the following figures. Pulmonary function improved significantly with all doses of PULMICORT TURBUHALER (budesonide) compared with placebo in both trials.

Adult Patients Previously Maintained on Inhaled Corticosteroids

Adult Patients Previously Maintained on Inhaled Corticosteroids - illustration

Pediatric Patients Age 6 to 18 Years Previously Maintained on Inhaled Corticosteroids

Pediatric Patients Age 6 to 18 Years Previously Maintained on Inhaled Corticosteroids - illustration

Patients Receiving PULMICORT TURBUHALER (budesonide) Once Daily

The efficacy and safety of once-daily administration of PULMICORT TURBUHALER (budesonide) 200 mcg and 400 mcg and placebo were also evaluated in 309 adult asthmatic patients (mean baseline FEV1 2.7 L) in an 18-week study. Compared with placebo, patients receiving Pulmicort 200 or 400 mcg once daily showed significantly better asthma stability as assessed by PEF and FEV1 over an initial 6-week treatment period, which was maintained with a 200 mcg daily dose over the subsequent 12 weeks. Although the study population included both patients previously treated with inhaled corticosteroids, as well as patients not previously receiving corticosteroid therapy, the results showed that once-daily dosing was most clearly effective for those patients previously maintained on orally inhaled corticosteroids (see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION).

Patients Previously Maintained on Oral Corticosteroids

In a clinical trial in 159 severe asthmatic patients requiring chronic oral prednisone therapy (mean baseline prednisone dose 19.3 mg/day) PULMICORT TURBUHALER (budesonide) at doses of 400 mcg twice daily and 800 mcg twice daily was compared with placebo over a 20-week period. Approximately two-thirds (68% on 400 mcg twice daily and 64% on 800 mcg twice daily) of PULMICORT TURBUHALER (budesonide) -treated patients were able to achieve sustained (at least 2 weeks) oral corticosteroid cessation (compared with 8% of placebo-treated patients) and improved asthma control. The average oral corticosteroid dose was reduced by 83% on 400 mcg twice daily and 79% on 800 mcg twice daily for PULMICORT TURBUHALER (budesonide) -treated patients vs. 27% for placebo. Additionally, 58 out of 64 patients (91%) who completely eliminated oral corticosteroids during the double-blind phase of the trial remained off oral corticosteroids for an additional 12 months while receiving PULMICORT TURBUHALER (budesonide) .

Last reviewed on RxList: 1/6/2017
This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.

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