Describe the mechanisms of action of drugs used to treat acute severe asthma
and give examples.
Asthma involves reversible bronchospasm, inflammation, and airway hyper-responsiveness to
inhaled stimuli. The main classes of drugs for acute therapy include sympathomimetics, antimuscarinic agents, corticosteroids, methylxanthines and magnesium. Candidates should have
a detailed knowledge of the mode of action of these mainstream drugs. Information about drugs
used for prevention and for chronic asthma was not asked for and answers which provided
details about long term inhaled steroids or leukotriene antagonists did not gain extra marks.
This question was well covered by some candidates in a semi-table format. A structured
approach worked well with details about drug class, mechanism of action and example(s).