Methotrexate Spares Steroids in Asthmatics

NEWARK, NJ - The airways are the passages in the lungs for the oxygen that we breathe. The walls of these passages become inflamed in the lungs of patients with asthma. This inflammation leads to spasm of the airways (bronchospasm), shortness of breath, and wheezing.

Steroid medications, such as prednisone and prednisolone, are often used in severe asthma to control the inflammation in the airways. These medications have many potential side effects. (For a review of these medications, please read the prednisone article of MedicineNet.com.)

Methotrexate is used for cancer treatment generally in higher doses than for other uses, and is often administered intravenously or intramuscularly. Among the other uses of methotrexate are the treatment of psoriasis (an inflammatory skin disease), as well as the arthritis that occurs in 10 percent of these patients (psoriatic arthritis), and rheumatoid arthritis.

A review of articles published to date related to treatment with methotrexate for the purpose of decreasing steroid requirements in adults with steroid-dependent asthma was published in the journal CHEST (1997;112:29-33).