BACKGROUND Inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) are recommended therapy for persistent asthma, although side effects can limit appropriate use. Ciclesonide, a novel ICS, is activated in the lung, thereby reducing systemic activity and side effects. This 12-week, double-blind, randomized, parallel-group, placebo-controlled study evaluated the efficacy and safety of ciclesonide in adults with persistent asthma. METHODS After a 2-week baseline period in which current ICS treatment was continued, 329 patients were randomized to receive ciclesonide 160 microg (n = 107) or 640 microg (n = 112) (ex-actuator doses, equivalent to 200 and 800 microg ex-valve, respectively), or placebo (n = 110) once daily in the morning. Efficacy was monitored by asthma symptom scores, rescue medication use, morning and evening peak expiratory flow (PEF) measurements, spirometry, and probability of study completion without experiencing lack of efficacy. RESULTS Morning PEF remained stable with either ciclesonide dose but decreased with placebo; the differences were significant (P < 0.0001) for both ciclesonide doses vs placebo. The forced expiratory volume in 1 s and forced vital capacity decreased significantly with placebo (P < 0.005), but were unchanged with ciclesonide. Lack of efficacy was significantly greater for patients switched to placebo (63%) than it was for those treated with ciclesonide 160 microg (30%) (P < 0.0001 vs placebo) or ciclesonide 640 microg (31%) (P < 0.0001 vs placebo). There were no significant differences between the two tested doses of ciclesonide with respect to efficacy and safety. Serum and 24-h urine cortisol were unaffected by ciclesonide treatment. Both doses of ciclesonide were well tolerated with no cases of oral candidiasis. CONCLUSION Ciclesonide (160 or 640 microg) once daily in the morning effectively maintains asthma control, does not affect cortisol levels, and has an adverse event profile comparable with placebo in adults with primarily mild to moderate asthma.