And now, there's a pill that can be taken just once a day ? and in children as young as six ? for the treatment of asthma. Singulair, which adults can also take, has been shown to significantly decrease asthma attacks, prevent daytime and nighttime asthma symptoms, and reduce the use of inhalers and other medicines, including inhaled steroids. Asthma is the most common chronic illness of childhood, afflicting approximately 5 million American children. It is the number one chronic condition causing children to be absent from school (10.1 million days missed annually), and the highest ranked cause of pediatric hospitalizations in the United States.
Singulair, which is not a steroid, comes as both a 10 mg tablet for adolescents and adults, and a 5 mg cherry-flavored chewable tablet for children ages 6 to 14. Studies have shown that it is tolerated as well as a sugar-pill placebo. Reported side effects were headache, influenza, and abdominal pain. None of these effects were severe enough, however, to stop use of the medication; there was no increase in side effects with extended treatment, and no clinically meaningful drug interactions.
"For anyone, but particularly for a child, having asthma can be devastating," says Dr. Beth Seidenberg, M.D., executive director, clinical research for the new drug's manufacturers, Merck Research Laboratories. Noting that usual asthma treatment requires special equipment and inhalers used several times a day, she adds, "Singulair may simplify the burden of asthma control, especially for many asthmatic children and their parents."