Reply to: Cause or consequence?

Eric D Bateman* (Corresponding Author), David Price, Hao-Chien Wang, Patricia Schonffeldt, Angelina Catanzariti, Ralf J.P. van der Valk, Maarten J.H.I. Beekman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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We thank Dr Volpe for questioning whether the results of the SABINA III study showing associations between SABA prescriptions and poor asthma outcomes should be regarded as “cause or consequence”[1]. We agree that causation cannot be assumed and stated this clearly as follows “this cross-sectional study does not permit an assessment of a causal link between SABA prescriptions and asthma outcomes and does not discount reverse causality; the results simply represent an association.” [2] But implying that high levels of SABA use
is simply a “consequence” is also an oversimplification of a complex issue. Firstly, besides the consistent results from epidemiologic studies there are many mechanistic studies of the negative effects of regular SABA use on biomarkers of airway inflammation, airway hyperresponsiveness, asthma symptom control and exacerbation risk, so causation is not ruled out [3,4]. Further, while logical to consider that high use of an as-needed medication for symptoms must represent poor control, we would point out that a central purpose of our
paper was to assess not inhaler use, but SABA prescriptions by clinicians and purchase over the counter. These are systemic issues concerning physician behaviour and access to SABAs that, in the face of excessive use and poor asthma control, permit or even encourage SABA use, which is contrary to asthma guideline recommendations [5]. The “long list” of recommendations for addressing this situation is therefore highly pertinent to the objectives
of the paper and we agree that these may, and in fact are intended to have “profound implications …. for clinical practice and public health” [5, 6, 7].
Original languageEnglish
Article number2200103
Number of pages2
JournalEuropean Respiratory Journal
Issue number6
Early online date9 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

AstraZeneca funded the SABINA III study; was involved in the study design, protocol development, study conduct and statistical analysis; and was given the opportunity to review this manuscript before submission. Publication support was provided by Michelle Rebello, PhD, of Cactus Life Sciences and funded by AstraZeneca.


  • asthma
  • prescription
  • short acting β2-agonist


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