Aspirin-Induced Asthma More Common Than
New evidence suggests that one in five adults with asthma may
be allergic to aspirin and similar painkillers—a problem
that puts them at risk for potentially severe asthmatic reactions.
A review of 21 studies conducted since the 1970s found that
21% of asthmatic adults may be sensitive to aspirin and other
nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Nearly all of
the patients with so-called aspirin-induced asthma were also
sensitive to the NSAIDs naproxen (Naprosyn), ibuprofen (Advil
and Motrin), and diclofenac (Voltaren).
On the other hand, researchers found, few adults with aspirin-induced
asthma were sensitive to acetaminophen (Tylenol)—a finding
they say reinforces the current recommendation that this drug
be the painkiller of choice for asthmatics.
The incidence of aspirin-induced asthma in this study was twice
as high as that found in other recent research reviews. This
difference, the researchers note, may arise from the fact that
many people with asthma are unaware that they’re sensitive
to aspirin; studies that rely on patient reports rather than
objective testing yield lower rates of aspirin-induced asthma.
Since people typically take over-the-counter painkillers of
their own accord, the researchers stress, doctors should be sure
to alert asthmatic patients to the potential for NSAID-induced
Volume 328, page 434
February 21, 2004