This application is being submitted to the NIMH DAHBR Health and Behavior Research Branch Co- Morbidity Program. This is a pilot study designed to culturally adapt for Latinos a behavioral treatment for comorbid panic disorder (PD) and asthma, and examine its efficacy versus an active placebo treatment. This R34 proposal is a follow-up to an R21 study, which developed the Panic-Asthma Treatment and showed promising results for reducing panic and asthma symptoms. There is a large degree of symptom similarity between PD and asthma. Confusion between panic and asthma symptoms can result in serious errors in self- management of both disorders. Patients with PD and asthma need a tailored intervention because what may be therapeutic for one condition can potentially exacerbate the other condition. The intervention teaches participants to differentiate between panic and asthma symptoms, and how to apply self-management strategies for each. The treatment also includes elements of cognitive behavioral therapy for PD that are safe for patients with asthma, and combines it with asthma education and heart rate variability biofeedback therapy. The research plan will involve two aims: 1) Cultural adaptation of the Panic-Asthma Treatment and 2) a randomized, placebo-controlled pilot study. Participants will be primarily recruited from two major, inner-city hospitals in the Bronx, NY. Diagnosis of PD will be based on the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV. Diagnosis of asthma will be based on national guidelines. The first year of the project will be devoted to approximately 5 focus groups with Latino (primarily Puerto Rican) participants, pilot treatment and participant feedback. The protocol will be adapted based on key cultural issues that are systematically observed during Phase 1. During Years 2-3, 40 participants with PD and asthma will be randomized into two treatment arms: Panic-Asthma Treatment and an active placebo condition involving music therapy and paced breathing at resting respiration rates. Each treatment will involve 8 weekly sessions. An interviewer, who will be blind to treatment condition, will conduct assessments at pre-treatment, mid-treatment, post-treatment, and 3-month follow-up. The primary hypotheses are that participants in the Panic-Asthma treatment group will have greater decreases than subjects in the placebo condition on the PD severity scale and albuterol use (i.e., rescue asthma medication) from pre-test to post-test and across 3-month follow-up. Albuterol use is important to examine because it may be an indicator of confusion between panic and asthma symptoms. Reductions in albuterol use may lead to improvements in panic symptoms due to fewer side effects. The goals of this study are highly relevant to the mission of NIMH to develop efficacious, culturally relevant behavioral treatments of co-occurring mental and physical disorders. This R34 study will generate feasibility data (e.g., initial effect sizes, recruitment and retention rates, treatment credibility, etc.) to design a future full- scale randomized, placebo-controlled trial via an R01 grant.
The development of a behavioral treatment for Latinos with comorbid panic disorder and asthma has great potential to reduce the immense public health costs of both disorders. Panic disorder is over-represented in patients with asthma, and asthma disproportionately affects Puerto Rican individuals. The Panic-Asthma treatment will be adapted to incorporate the specific, cultural issues relevant to Latinos.