Author(s): Walsh GM
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Abstract Second-generation histamine H(1) receptor antagonists are recognized as being highly effective treatments for allergic-based disease and are among the most frequently prescribed drugs in the world. The newer antihistamines represent a heterogeneous group of compounds with markedly different chemical structures, a spectrum of antihistaminic properties, adverse effects, half-life, tissue distribution, metabolism and varying degrees of anti-inflammatory effects. Histamine is an important mast cell- and basophil-derived mediator that has been implicated in the pathogenesis of asthma, resulting in smooth muscle contraction, mucus hypersecretion, and increased vascular permeability leading to mucosal edema. Antihistamines should never be used as monotherapy for asthma but there is evidence that these drugs give a measure of protection in histamine-induced bronchoconstriction. Furthermore, several studies have demonstrated that the use of second-generation antihistamines, as adjunct therapy, may benefit those patients whose allergic asthma co-exists with allergic rhinitis. Indeed, many patients present with both allergic rhinitis and asthma. The link between the upper and lower respiratory airways is now well established and there is increasing evidence that allergic rhinitis is a risk factor for the development of asthma. More recently, a number of novel antihistamines have been developed which are either metabolites of active drugs or enantiomers and there is emerging evidence that at least one of these drugs, desloratadine, may give significant symptomatic benefit in some types of asthma. It is of interest to note that cetirizine provides a primary pharmacological intervention strategy to prevent the development of asthma in specifically-sensitized high risk groups of infants. Moreover, the documented anti-inflammatory activities of antihistamines may provide a novel mechanism of action for the therapeutic control of virus-induced asthma exacerbations by inhibiting the expression of intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1) by airway epithelial cells. Finally, several well-conducted studies suggest that combination therapy with antihistamines and antileukotrienes may be as effective as corticosteroid use in patients with allergic asthma and seasonal allergic rhinitis.
This article was published in Am J Respir Med
and referenced in Journal of Allergy & Therapy