A rarely prescribed asthma drug is easier to use and just as effective as conventional treatment with inhalers, according to a new study.

British researchers found that tablets called leukotriene receptor antagonists (LTRAs) manage asthma equally successfully as steroid inhalers and other “preventer” inhalers when used in addition to steroid inhalers.

LTRAs — sold under the brand names Singulair (montelukast) and Accolate (zafirlukast) — have long been on the market as an alternative to the steroid inhalers commonly used by people with asthma to ward off attacks. However, they are less popular than inhalers, researchers said.

Researchers followed 650 patients with chronic asthma for two years, and found that LTRAs could provide an effective alternative for people who have problems using inhalers or are unable to use them because of side effects.

“We hope these findings will increase the options for health care professionals when prescribing for this common but disruptive disease ,” study researcher David Price, of the University of Aberdeen and the University of East Anglia in England, said in a statement.

Researchers also found that adherence to asthma treatment was improved by as much as 60 percent among patients given the once-a-day LTRA tablets, since they did not have to worry about using appropriate inhaler techniques, Price said.

Asthma is a chronic condition characterized by inflammation of the airways, causing wheezing, coughing, chest tightness and shortness of breath. About 34.1 million Americans have asthma, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

The study will be published tomorrow (May 5) in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Pass it on: Asthma drugs called leukotriene receptor antagonists work just as well as the more commonly prescribed inhalers.

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