QVAR — beclomethasone dipropionate aerosol, metered

The active component of QVAR 40 mcg Inhalation Aerosol and QVAR 80 mcg Inhalation Aerosol is beclomethasone dipropionate, USP, an anti-inflammatory corticosteroid having the chemical name 9-chloro-11β,17,21-trihydroxy-16β-methylpregna-1,4-diene-3,20-dione 17,21-dipropionate. Beclomethasone dipropionate (BDP) is a diester of beclomethasone, a synthetic corticosteroid chemically related to dexamethasone. Beclomethasone differs from dexamethasone in having a chlorine at the 9-alpha carbon in place of a fluorine, and in having a 16 beta-methyl group instead of a 16 alpha-methyl group. Beclomethasone dipropionate is a white to creamy white, odorless powder with a molecular formula of C28 H37 ClO7 and a molecular weight of 521.1. Its chemical structure is:

Chemical Structure

QVAR is a pressurized, metered-dose aerosol intended for oral inhalation only. Each unit contains a solution of beclomethasone dipropionate in propellant HFA-134a (1,1,1,2 tetrafluoroethane) and ethanol. QVAR 40 mcg delivers 40 mcg of beclomethasone dipropionate from the actuator and 50 mcg from the valve. QVAR 80 mcg delivers 80 mcg of beclomethasone dipropionate from the actuator and 100 mcg from the valve. Both products deliver 50 microliters (59 milligrams) of solution formulation from the valve with each actuation. The 40 mcg and the 80 mcg canisters provide either 100 inhalations or 120 inhalations. QVAR should be “primed” or actuated twice prior to taking the first dose from a new canister, or when the inhaler has not been used for more than ten days. Avoid spraying in the eyes or face while priming QVAR. This product does not contain chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).


Airway inflammation is known to be an important component in the pathogenesis of asthma. Inflammation occurs in both large and small airways. Corticosteroids have multiple anti-inflammatory effects, inhibiting both inflammatory cells (e.g., mast cells, eosinophils, basophils, lymphocytes, macrophages, and neutrophils) and release of inflammatory mediators (e.g., histamine, eicosanoids, leukotrienes, and cytokines). These anti-inflammatory actions of corticosteroids such as beclomethasone dipropionate contribute to their efficacy in asthma.

Beclomethasone dipropionate is a prodrug that is rapidly activated by hydrolysis to the active monoester, 17 monopropionate (17-BMP). Beclomethasone 17 monopropionate has been shown in vitro to exhibit a binding affinity for the human glucocorticoid receptor which is approximately 13 times that of dexamethasone, 6 times that of triamcinolone acetonide, 1.5 times that of budesonide and 25 times that of beclomethasone dipropionate. The clinical significance of these findings is unknown.

Studies in patients with asthma have shown a favorable ratio between topical anti-inflammatory activity and systemic corticosteroid effects with recommended doses of QVAR.


Beclomethasone dipropionate (BDP) undergoes rapid and extensive conversion to beclomethasone-17-monopropionate (17-BMP) during absorption. The pharmacokinetics of 17-BMP has been studied in asthmatics given single doses.


The mean peak plasma concentration (Cmax ) of BDP was 88 pg/ml at 0.5 hour after inhalation of 320 mcg using QVAR (four actuations of the 80 mcg/actuation strength). The mean peak plasma concentration of the major and most active metabolite, 17-BMP, was 1419 pg/ml at 0.7 hour after inhalation of 320 mcg of QVAR. When the same nominal dose is provided by the two QVAR strengths (40 and 80 mcg/actuation), equivalent systemic pharmacokinetics can be expected. The Cmax of 17-BMP increased dose proportionally in the dose range of 80 and 320 mcg.


Three major metabolites are formed via cytochrome P450 3A catalyzed biotransformation — beclomethasone-17-monopropionate (17-BMP), beclomethasone-21-monopropionate (21-BMP) and beclomethasone (BOH). Lung slices metabolize BDP rapidly to 17-BMP and more slowly to BOH. 17-BMP is the most active metabolite.


The in vitro protein binding for 17-BMP was reported to be 94-96% over the concentration range of 1000 to 5000 pg/mL. Protein binding was constant over the concentration range evaluated. There is no evidence of tissue storage of BDP or its metabolites.


The major route of elimination of inhaled BDP appears to be via hydrolysis. More than 90% of inhaled BDP is found as 17-BMP in the systemic circulation. The mean elimination half-life of 17-BMP is 2.8 hours. Irrespective of the route of administration (injection, oral or inhalation), BDP and its metabolites are mainly excreted in the feces. Less than 10% of the drug and its metabolites are excreted in the urine.

Special Populations

Formal pharmacokinetic studies using QVAR were not conducted in any special populations.


The pharmacokinetics of 17-BMP, including dose and strength proportionalities, is similar in children and adults, although the exposure is highly variable. In 17 children (mean age 10 years), the Cmax of 17-BMP was 787 pg/ml at 0.6 hour after inhalation of 160 mcg (four actuations of the 40 mcg/actuation strength of HFA beclomethasone dipropionate). The systemic exposure to 17-BMP from 160 mcg of HFA-BDP administered without a spacer was comparable to the systemic exposure to 17-BMP from 336 mcg CFC-BDP administered with a large volume spacer in 14 children (mean age 12 years). This implies that approximately twice the systemic exposure to 17-BMP would be expected for comparable mg doses of HFA-BDP without a spacer and CFC-BDP with a large volume spacer.


Improvement in asthma control following inhalation can occur within 24 hours of beginning treatment in some patients, although maximum benefit may not be achieved for 1 to 2 weeks, or longer. The effects of QVAR on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis were studied in 40 corticosteroid naive patients. QVAR, at doses of 80, 160 or 320 mcg twice daily was compared with placebo and 336 mcg twice daily of beclomethasone dipropionate in a CFC propellant based formulation (CFC-BDP). Active treatment groups showed an expected dose-related reduction in 24-hour urinary free cortisol (a sensitive marker of adrenal production of cortisol). Patients treated with the highest recommended dose of QVAR (320 mcg twice daily) had a 37.3% reduction in 24-hour urinary free cortisol compared to a reduction of 47.3% produced by treatment with 336 mcg twice daily of CFC-BDP. There was a 12.2% reduction in 24 hour urinary free cortisol seen in the group of patients that received 80 mcg twice daily of QVAR and a 24.6% reduction in the group of patients that received 160 mcg twice daily. An open label study of 354 asthma patients given QVAR at recommended doses for one year assessed the effect of QVAR treatment on the HPA axis (as measured by both morning and stimulated plasma cortisol). Less than 1% of patients treated for one year with QVAR had an abnormal response (peak less than 18 mcg/dL) to short-cosyntropin test.


Blinded, randomized, parallel, placebo-controlled and active-controlled clinical studies were conducted in 940 adult asthma patients to assess the efficacy and safety of QVAR in the treatment of asthma. Fixed doses ranging from 40 mcg to 160 mcg twice daily were compared to placebo, and doses ranging from 40 mcg to 320 mcg twice daily were compared with doses of 42 mcg to 336 mcg twice daily of an active CFC-BDP comparator. These studies provided information about appropriate dosing through a range of asthma severity. A blinded, randomized, parallel, placebo-controlled study was conducted in 353 pediatric patients (age 5-12 years) to assess the efficacy and safety of HFA beclomethasone dipropionate in the treatment of asthma. Fixed doses of 40 mcg and 80 mcg twice daily were compared with placebo in this study. In these adult and pediatric efficacy trials, at the doses studied, measures of pulmonary function [forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1 ) and morning peak expiratory flow (AM PEF)] and asthma symptoms were significantly improved with QVAR treatment when compared to placebo.

In controlled clinical trials with adult patients not adequately controlled with beta-agonist alone, QVAR was effective at improving asthma control at doses as low as 40 mcg twice daily (80 mcg/day). Comparable asthma control was achieved at lower daily doses of QVAR than with CFC-BDP. Treatment with increasing doses of both QVAR and CFC-BDP generally resulted in increased improvement in FEV1 . In this trial the improvement in FEV1 across doses was greater for QVAR than for CFC-BDP, indicating a shift in the dose response curve for QVAR.

Patients Not Previously Receiving Corticosteroid Therapy

In a 6 week clinical trial, 270 steroid naive patients with symptomatic asthma being treated with as-needed beta-agonist bronchodilators, were randomized to receive either 40 mcg twice daily of QVAR, 80 mcg twice daily of QVAR, or placebo. Both doses of QVAR were effective in improving asthma control with significantly greater improvements in FEV1 , AM PEF, and asthma symptoms than with placebo. Shown below is the change from baseline in AM PEF during this trial.

A 6-Week Clinical Trial in Patients with Mild to Moderate Asthma Not onCorticosteroid Therapy Prior to Study Entry:Mean Change in AM PEF
6-Week Graph
(click image for full-size original)

In a 6-week clinical trial, 256 patients with symptomatic asthma being treated with as-needed beta-agonist bronchodilators, were randomized to receive either 160 mcg twice daily of QVAR (delivered as either 40 mcg/actuation or 80 mcg/actuation) or placebo. Treatment with QVAR significantly improved asthma control, as assessed by FEV1 , AM PEF, and asthma symptoms, when compared to treatment with placebo. Comparable improvement in AM PEF was seen for patients receiving 160 mcg twice daily QVAR from the 40 mcg and 80 mcg strength products.

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