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  1. Richard Lehman, MRCGP, MA
  1. Department of Primary Care, University of Oxford
 Oxford, UK

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    Asthma is the oldest medical word in common use: it first appears in the writings of Hippocrates around 450 BCE and derives from a verb used by Homer. Two and a half millennia later, we continue to argue about its definition and treatment. The drugs we prescribe most are the β adrenergic agonists, both short acting and long acting, although they are associated with an increase in the risk of asthma-related death. We urge many patients to take inhaled corticosteroids, but many forget; for them a good idea might be to use metered dose inhalers with an audiovisual reminder device, according to a trial from New Zealand (

    ) . Recently, fixed dose combinations of long acting β stimulants and steroids have become popular with both doctors and patients, though we lack good data on their long term safety. A Polish study compared 2 frequently used combinations, salmeterol/fluticasone and formoterol/budesonide. They performed equally well over 6 months (
    ) . And a study aimed at reducing treatment for mild persistent asthma in the USA …

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