Fluticasone versus beclomethasone or budesonide for chronic asthma in adults and children

This review compares the effectiveness of three inhaled steroids. Fluticasone (FP) was compared with either beclomethasone (BDP) or budesonide (BUD) for treating people with chronic asthma. When FP was given to children or adults at approximately half the daily dose of either BDP or BUD, it appeared to be at least as effective as the other two drugs in improving airway opening. There was not enough information available to draw conclusions concerning the effect of these drugs on symptoms, or the risk of an acute asthma exacerbation. When given at the same dose as BDP or BUD, FP treated participants had slightly better lung function. However, at the same dose FP was also associated with increased hoarseness, although it did not lead to increased incidences of other side-effects associated with steroids such as oral thrush or sore throat.

Authors' conclusions: 

Fluticasone given at half the daily dose of beclomethasone or budesonide leads to small improvements in measures of airway calibre, but it appears to have a higher risk of causing sore throat and when given at the same daily dose leads to increased hoarseness. There are concerns about adrenal suppression with Fluticasone given to children at doses greater than 400 mcg/day, but the randomised trials included in this review did not provide sufficient data to address this issue.

Read the full abstract...

Beclomethasone dipropionate (BDP) and budesonide (BUD) are commonly prescribed inhaled corticosteroids for the treatment of asthma. Fluticasone propionate (FP) is newer agent with greater potency in in-vitro assays.


To compare the efficacy and safety of Fluticasone to Beclomethasone or Budesonide in the treatment of chronic asthma.

Search strategy: 

We searched the Cochrane Airways Group trial register (January 2007) and reference lists of articles. We contacted trialists and pharmaceutical companies for additional studies and searched abstracts of major respiratory society meetings (1997 to 2006).

Selection criteria: 

Randomised trials in children and adults comparing Fluticasone to either Beclomethasone or Budesonide in the treatment of chronic asthma.

Data collection and analysis: 

Two reviewers independently assessed articles for inclusion and methodological quality. One reviewer extracted data. Quantitative analyses were undertaken using RevMan analyses 1.0.1.

Main results: 

Seventy-one studies (14,602 participants) representing 74 randomised comparisons met the inclusion criteria. Methodological quality was fair. Dose ratio 1:2: FP produced a significantly greater end of treatment FEV1 (0.04 litres (95% CI 0 to 0.07 litres), end of treatment and change in morning PEF, but not change in FEV1 or evening PEF. This applied to all drug doses, age groups, and delivery devices. No difference between FP and BDP/BUD were seen for trial withdrawals. FP led to fewer symptoms and less rescue medication use. When given at half the dose of BDP/BUD, FP led to a greater likelihood of pharyngitis. There was no difference in the likelihood of oral candidiasis. Plasma cortisol and 24 hour urinary cortisol was measured frequently but data presentation was limited. Dose ratio 1:1: FP produced a statistically significant difference in morning PEF, evening PEF, and FEV1 over BDP or BUD. The effects on exacerbations were mixed. There were no significant differences incidence of hoarseness, pharyngitis, candidiasis, or cough.