- A significant, large minority of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) respond favorably to corticosteroid treatment; but the benefit may be outweighed by its side effects. Long-term administration of inhaled steroids is a safe means of treatment. We hypothesized that treatment with inhaled budesonide would improve clinical symptoms and pulmonary function in subjects with COPD, and that the response to an inhaled B2-agonist would individualize steroid responders. In 44 patients with stable COPD in a double- blind crossover trial, we compared a 6-week course of inhalations of 800 micrograms/d budesonide with a placebo, separated by a 4-week interval when no medication was taken. In 33 out of 42 responders to the B2-agonist who remained in the study, there was a significant improvement in FEV1 of greater than 20% following budesonide inhalation, as compared to placebo. There was also a significant difference between the 2 periods of treatment as to the mean number of B2-agonist inhalations. We conclude that about 1/4 of patients with stable COPD respond to bronchodilators, and treatment with inhaled steroids improves spirometry data and inhaled B2-agonist consumption in about 3/4.