Inhaler may up risk of asthma in some children

* Genetic variant means drugs don’t work as well

* Drug commonly used across the world

* Millions of children could be affected

LONDON, Oct 6 (Reuters) - A common asthma reliever drug may increase the risk of asthma attacks in some sufferers, British scientists said on Tuesday.

The researchers found that salbutamol, a popular inhaler medicine, as well as salmeterol, an ingredient in GlaxoSmithKline's GSK.L Advair asthma product, are less effective in children with a specific gene variant and may worsen the health of some patients.

“This is a global question that needs to be addressed,” Professor Somnath Mukhopadhyay from Brighton and Sussex Medical School told Reuters.

Salbutamol is called albuterol in the United States and is used widely across the world, the researchers told a news conference in London.

The study showed that asthma patients using their inhaler on a daily basis and who carry the Arg16 gene variant were at a 30 percent greater risk of asthma attacks compared with those with the more usual form of the gene.

The study says the risk is the same with salbutamol, which is short acting, and with salmeterol, which is longer acting.

The study is due to be published in the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology journal this month.

Around 1 million children in Britain have asthma and more than 100,000 carry this gene change, the researchers from Brighton and Sussex Medical School and the University of Dundee said. (Reporting by Kate Kelland; Writing by Ben Deighton; editing by Simon Jessop)