A lung drug developed by Boehringer Ingelheim and Pfizer helped delay severe asthma attacks in adults during two last-stage trials, according to data presented at the 2012 European Respiratory Society (ERS) congress.

Spiriva, generic name tiotropium, delayed a flare-up by 282 days, compared with 226 days in patients taking a placebo.

This corresponds to a 21% reduced risk in adults who remain symptomatic despite treatment with inhaled corticosteroids or long-acting beta-agonists.

A total of 912 patients were randomised to take tiotropium, delivered by a ‘Respimat’ soft mist inhaler, or a placebo for 48 weeks.

Adding tiotropium provided significant lung function improvements at 24 weeks, which were sustained over 48 weeks, Boehringer said.

The results of the phase III PrimoTinA-asthma studies were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Study investigator and consultant chest physician at Wexham Park Hospital in the UK Dr Richard Russell said; "These results are promising for the many patients, who despite current treatment options remain uncontrolled and prone to exacerbations."

Boehringer Ingelheim medical director Dr Charles de Wet said; "We are excited by these results, which will likely be highly appreciated by both physicians and patients.

"The UniTinA-asthma trial programme is exploring whether tiotropium can address the clear unmet medical need seen in the significant number of asthma patients who remain symptomatic despite the available therapeutic options."

Image: Tiotropium was able to provide significant lung function improvements. Photo: Courtesy of