The limited evidence available indicates that there are no consistent significant differences in effectiveness between the three ICS licensed for use in children at either low or high dose. BDP CFC-propelled products are often the cheapest ICS currently available at both low and high dose, and may remain so even when CFC-propelled products are excluded. Exclusion of CFC-propelled products increases the mean annual cost of all budesonide (BUD) and BDP, while the overall cost differences between the comparators diminish. There is very limited evidence available for the efficacy and safety of ICS and LABAs in children. From this limited evidence, there appear to be no significant clinical differences in effects between the use of a combination inhaler versus the same drugs in separate inhalers. There is a lack of evidence comparing ICS at a higher dose with ICS and LABA in combination and comparing the combination products with each other. In the absence of any evidence concerning the effectiveness of ICS at higher dose with ICS and LABA, a cost-consequence analysis gives mixed results. There are potential cost savings with the use of combination inhalers compared to separate inhalers. At present prices, the BUD/FF combination is more expensive than those containing FP/SAL, but it is not known whether there are clinically significant differences between them. A scoping review is required to assess the requirements for additional primary research on the clinical effectiveness of treatment for asthma in children under 5 years old. Such a review could also usefully include all treatment options, pharmacological and non-pharmacological, for asthma. A direct head-to-head trial that compares the two combination therapies of FP/SAL and BUD/FF is warranted, and it is important to assess whether the addition of a LABA to a lower dose of ICS could potentially be as effective as an increased dose of ICS alone, but also be steroid sparing. There is also a need for the long-term adverse events associated with ICS use to be assessed systematically. Future trials of treatment for chronic asthma in children should aim to standardise further the way in which outcome measures are defined. There should be a greater focus on patient-centred outcomes to provide a more meaningful estimation of the impact of treatment on asthma control. Methods of reporting also require standardisation
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