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Study Shows Combining 2 Inhalers Could Be Better Treatment For Asthma Patients

PITTSBURGH (CBS) -- Nine people die from asthma each day in the United States.

A new study is looking at patients who have trouble controlling their condition, and suggests possibly changing the way doctors treat them.

Amparo Rivera nearly died of an asthma attack last year.

"The doctor had to basically put her fingers down my throat to keep my windpipe from closing," Rivera said.

She now has two inhalers to control the condition. One she uses every day for prevention. The other is a rescue inhaler in case of an asthma attack.

Dr. Clifford Bassett says that's common practice in the U.S. But a new study in Europe, published in "The Lancet," finds that combining both medications in one inhaler may be a better solution.

"They were able to treat people effectively with one medication for inflammation and bronchodilation," said Dr. Bassett, of Allergy & Asthma Care of New York.

Patients in the study used that combination inhaler twice a day.

If symptoms came on, rather than use a separate relief inhaler, they just took another puff on the combo inhaler. For patients with moderate or severe asthma, the single inhaler worked better than two.

"There was a 39 percent improvement in the reduction of asthma episodes," Dr. Bassett said.

And many asthma patients say they would prefer the convenience of just one inhaler.

"I don't want to be carrying different inhalers around and doing two or three medications and inhalers every day," said Serena Huang, an asthma patient.

But Dr. Bassett says the study results are still too new to change his practice.

"We want patients to know if they have active asthma they need to carry their rescue inhaler with them at all times," Dr. Bassett says.

And that's important heading into allergy season, which can be a dangerous trigger for asthma.

This allergy season is expected to be one of the worst and longest in years, continuing into October.

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