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What is the best medication for asthma?


Updated April 16, 2014

Question: What is the best medication for asthma?
Answer: It depends on how severe a person’s asthma is. Everyone with asthma should have a rescue medication available, such as albuterol, for the quick-relief of asthma symptoms. However, the majority of people with asthma also require a controller medication. A controller medication is used to prevent asthma symptoms, and is taken everyday regardless of how the person’s asthma is doing that day.

Find out if your asthma is controlled; and whether you should see your doctor so that a controller therapy (or a different controller therapy) can be prescribed.

If it is determined that a controller therapy is required, there are many different options to choose from. These include inhaled steroids such as Flovent (fluticasone) and Pulmicort (budesonide), leukotriene blockers such as Singulair (montelukast), and combination therapy with long-acting beta-agonists such as Advair (fluticasone/salmeterol) and Symbicort (budesonide/formoterol).

Many people like the idea of taking a once-daily pill, such as Singulair, for the long-term control of their asthma. Unfortunately, Singulair is not a particularly good asthma medication for most people, although does work well for some. It would be reasonable to try a medication like Singulair, as long as there is a re-assessment of asthma control after a period of a few weeks.

Inhaled steroids are the preferred controller medication for people with uncontrolled asthma. These medications provide better control of asthma symptoms and prevent future asthma attacks better than leukotriene blockers. For those people whose asthma is not well controlled on an inhaled steroid, or those with more severe asthma, the combination of an inhaled steroid and a long-acting beta-agonist may be required. This combination therapy appears to be the best medication for these people, which results in the reduction of asthma symptoms, improvement of lung function and the reduction of use of rescue medications.

Learn more about asthma therapies and an important warning about Advair.


Expert Panel Report 3 (EPR3): Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma. 2007. Accessed November 25, 2007.

Murray J et al. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2004;93:351-359.

Calhoun W et al. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2001;164:759-763.

Condemi JJ et al. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 1999;82:383-389.

DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this site is for educational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for personal care by a licensed physician. Please see your physician for diagnosis and treatment of any concerning symptoms or medical condition.

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