Leukotriene receptor antagonists for asthma treatment

In the past few years, a class of medicines known as leukotriene receptor antagonists has been developed for the treatment of asthma.

Leukotriene receptor antagonists, such as montelukast sodium (e.g. Singulair tablets) or zafirlukast (e.g. Accolate tablets), are not used to treat an acute attack of asthma. They are preventers and come in tablet form. Leukotriene receptor antagonists should be taken daily, as prescribed.

Leukotriene receptor antagonists treat asthma via a totally different pathway to other available medicines. They work by blocking substances in your lungs called leukotrienes, which cause narrowing and swelling of the airways in asthma.

Montelukast and zafirlukast are used to help prevent asthma symptoms. As they come in tablet form, leukotriene receptor antagonists are especially useful in children or adults who cannot use puffers. Montelukast can be taken by children older than 2 and by adults, while zafirlukast can be taken only by those 12 years old or older.

Your doctor can advise if a leukotriene receptor antagonist is suitable for you or your child. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, or if you are breast feeding or planning to do so, as they may wish to prescribe a different medicine for you.

The most common side effects of leukotriene receptor antagonists are headache and gastrointestinal upsets.

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