Letter: Unproven answer to asthma

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your article about the Buteyko breathing technique ( "A shorter intake of breath", Section Two, 10 June) claimed the existence of a technique with the potential to "cure" asthma which was apparently not welcomed by the National Asthma Campaign. Readers could be forgiven for thinking that this charity has entirely rejected the Buteyko method either out of pique or out of excessive devotion to drug therapy. None of this is true.

It is true that we do not at present recommend the Buteyko technique, just as we never recommend any new treatment or technique without rigorous clinical trials published, after peer review, in a reputable medical journal.

The double-blind clinical trial referred to in your article has not been published in this way. Its results are interim and therefore not peer- reviewed. They are drawn from one trial of 43 people who self-reported the extent of their symptoms, thus increasing the likelihood of a placebo effect.

As your article points out, even the author of the interim study is sceptical about the benefits of the technique.

The National Asthma Campaign cannot recommend that the 3 million people in the United Kingdom who have asthma entirely abandon their orthodox treatment and rely on this technique on the basis of a study of just 43 people.

MELINDA LETTS

Chief Executive

National Asthma Campaign

London N1

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