4 Preventive Asthma Controller Medicines

Asthma controller medicines help prevent asthma symptoms when taken every day as prescribed. These preventive asthma medicines include several different categories. Each works in unique ways on a specific part of the pathophysiology of asthma, and some are more appropriate for certain levels of asthma severity.

Surprisingly, many patients with asthma do not take their medications regularly. If you do not take your controller medication as prescribed, you may be frustrated as they cannot work for you to prevent asthma symptoms. While there are many things you can do to help you remember and be more adherent, the bottom line is that controller medications need to be taken regularly to improve your asthma control.

Each of these medicines has a time and place that will depend on your particular asthma situation. If you think that you might benefit from a particular treatment or notice that you are experiencing side effects from a treatment you are currently taking, make sure that you talk with your doctor and tell them why you think a particular medicine might be good for you.


Inhaled Corticosteroids or ICS

Woman using inhaler

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Inhaled steroids, also known as inhaled corticosteroids or ICS, have become the mainstay of asthma treatment for persistent asthma in children and adults. They are safe, effective and make a significant difference in the quality of life for people who have asthma. They are the most common class of drugs prescribed when you or your child need a daily medication for the prevention of asthma symptoms.

These medications can be prescribed alone or may also be prescribed as a combination product with two different medications in one such as ​Advair.


Leukotriene Modifiers

Leukotriene modifiers are asthma controller medications that are sometimes used in combination with, or instead of, inhaled steroids for people whose asthma is moderate to severe. They are sometimes called leukotriene antagonists. These can be prescribed or there is even a medical food that can be used in children.


Long-Acting Beta Agonists

Long-acting beta agonists, or LABAs, are asthma medicines that control or prevent asthma symptoms and asthma attacks. These are bronchodilators whose effects last for 12 hours or more. Their recommended use is in combination with inhaled steroids. Generally, your doctor will only prescribe this as an add-on treatment and not as the sole treatment for your asthma.



Immunomodulators such as Xolair are a new class of asthma medications that are used as add-on therapy in people who have severe persistent asthma with allergies that have not responded adequately to inhaled steroids or you have certain forms of occupational asthma. Immunomodulators are a type of antibody. This is a significantly more expensive asthma treatment and your insurance company may want you to see a specialist before starting this treatment.

Bottom Line

Ultimately asthma controller medications are about getting your asthma symptoms under control. Make sure you have the information you need to control your asthma.

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