Leukotrienes are very powerful chemicals released by mast cells in the airways, and they are an important cause of asthma. Leukotriene modifiers have been available since 1997 for the treatment of asthma.
Leukotriene modifiers (e.g. Accolate® and Singulair®) either interfere with the sequence of chemical reactions that leads to symptoms, or interfere with the binding of leukotrienes with their corresponding receptors and thus limit their ability to cause asthmatic symptoms.
Leukotrienes can be released in sites of allergic inflammation in the nose, sinus mucosa, eyes, lungs and skin. After exposure to allergens or irritants, leukotrienes are released from the mucous membranes of the nose, sinuses and/or chest causing symptoms of swelling and obstruction. This can lead to osteomeatal complex blockage, reduced mucociliary clearance and increased risk for sinusitis.
|Brand Name||Generic Name||Dose||Other Instructions|
|Accolate®||zafirlukast||20mg tablet twice a day||use 1 hour before, or 2 hours after meals|
|10mg tablet twice a day (5 - 11 years)|
|Singulair®||montelukast||10mg tablet once a day (ages 15 years and older)||not affected by meals|
|5mg tablet once a day (6 - 14 yrs)|
|4mg chewable tablet once
a day (2 - 5 years)
|4mg granules once a day (12 - 24 months)|
Treatment with leukotriene modifiers can improve lung function, decrease the need for sympathomimetic inhalers (e.g. albuterol), and reduce symptoms. Although these medications are effective, they do not appear to be quite as effective as oral or inhaled corticosteroids in controlling asthma. Further, there is no clear evidence that leukotriene modifiers prevent remodeling of the airways as does corticosteroids treatment.
Additionally, the effects of leukotriene modifiers may prove inconsistent from patient to patient. In contrast, corticosteroids are effective in the vast majority of individuals. That being said, The Asthma Center specialists have found optimal results using a combination of corticosteroids and leukotriene modifiers.
Use of both leukotriene modifiers and corticosteroids can better control asthmatic symptoms than either medication alone in some individuals, while also reducing the dose of corticosteroids needed to achieve good control of asthmatic symptoms.
By modifying leukotriene effects, these medications reduce the symptoms of allergies, asthma and possibly sinusitis and nasal polyps. Although leukotriene modifiers are used for the treatment of sinusitis and nasal polyps, especially for those with aspirin intolerance, it is an “off-label” use and not yet in alignment with FDA recommendations.
These medications are usually well-tolerated. Side effects are uncommon but include: headache, nausea, stomach upset, pain, fever, muscle ache, fatigue, sore throat, laryngitis and liver enzyme elevation. Churg Strauss syndrome, a form of vascular inflammation, rarely is noted with these medications and can include vague symptoms of fever, fatigue, weight loss, vasculitis leading to kidney disease, hypotension, abdominal pain, bowel damage, heart disease, muscle aches and wasting, nervous system damage and arthritis. Liver function abnormalities have been reported with all of these agents and should be periodically monitored.