In 1996 Advair (salmeterol plus fluticasone propionate) was tested for its safety against a placebo, and researchers found a ''small, but significant'' increase in the death rate among patients.
The American drugs regulator, the Food and Drug Administration, acted in the way it knows best, and ordered a 'label revision'. This is a harsh penalty, requiring a minute change to the small print.
The FDA's drug advisory committee finally met up the other week to decide if the drugs should be allowed to stay on the market. To a man, they decided that the drugs were safe enough to continue to be prescribed (Lancet, 2005; 366: 266).