John Bernard Lloyd (Jack) Howell

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: (Published 16 March 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h1185
  1. Anna Sayburn, London
  1. annasayburn{at}

Transformed the treatment of asthma and innovated medical education

Jack Howell, who has died at the age of 88, will be remembered for changing two entire disciplines while contributing to many more over the course of his career.

To many, Howell will primarily be associated with his work in the late 1960s on the asthma drug sodium cromoglicate (Intal). He led the first clinical trials on the newly discovered inhaled drug, which had a major role in asthma care in the years before inhaled corticosteroids became widely adopted.1 In later years, he was devastated when meta-analyses were published that seemed to show that the drug worked no better than placebo for paediatric asthma. He worked to refute what he saw as a flawed analysis of his work, right up to his last published paper in 2007.2 Coauthor Alan Edwards says of that paper that “our arguments are sound and have remained so.”

And yet Howell’s work on sodium cromoglicate came about almost by chance, as a result of his friendship with the doctor and researcher Roger Altounyan, at a time when they worked in neighbouring hospitals …

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