A subset of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) experience a decrease in exacerbation frequency, leading to a diminished need for treatment with inhaled corticosteroids (ICS). We investigated prescribing and discontinuation patterns of long-acting bronchodilators and ICS in COPD patients according to exacerbation frequency.
Using the nationwide Danish health registries, we conducted a drug utilization study among patients who had at least two exacerbations or one hospitalization due to an exacerbation during 2011–2012. This study population was stratified according to consistency of exacerbation occurrence after 12, 24, 36, and 48 months of follow-up and the groups were described according to use of ICS, long-acting β2-agonists (LABA), and long-acting anticholinergics (LAMA), and combinations thereof.
We identified 29,010 COPD exacerbators during 2011–2012. Upon inclusion, 70% received ICS-containing regimens, in combination with LABA (23%) or both LABA and LAMA (41%). The proportion of prevalent users of ICS-containing regimens decreased to 56% during follow-up among exacerbation-free individuals, while it increased to 86% in individuals who experienced at least one exacerbation annually. Persistence to ICS-containing regimens was 58% after 4 years in individuals without exacerbations compared to 74% among those with annual exacerbations. Similar patterns were observed for triple therapy which was the most extensively used drug combination regardless of consistency of exacerbation occurrence.
The extensive use of ICS and the relatively high persistence to ICS-containing regimens in individuals who had a decrease in exacerbation occurrence highlight a need for the development and implementation of de-escalation strategies in clinical practice.
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Peter Bjødstrup Jensen is acknowledged for assistance with preparation of figures. No compensation was provided for this.
Conflict of interest
Mette Reilev reports participation in research projects funded by LEO Pharma, all with funds paid to the institution where she was employed (no personal fees) and with no relation to the work reported in this paper.
Anton Pottegård reports participation in research projects funded by Alcon, Almirall, Astellas, Astra-Zeneca, Boehringer-Ingelheim, Novo, Servier and LEO Pharma, all with funds paid to the institution where he was employed (no personal fees) and with no relation to the work reported in this paper.
Jens Søndergaard reports personal fees from Boehringer Ingelheim without relation to the work reported in this paper.
Kasper Bruun Kristensen, Wade Thomson, and Daniel Pilsgaard Henriksen report no potential conflicts of interest.
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Reilev, M., Kristensen, K.B., Søndergaard, J. et al. Discontinuation of therapy among COPD patients who experience an improvement in exacerbation status. Eur J Clin Pharmacol 75, 1025–1032 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00228-019-02667-4
- Utilization patterns
- Long-acting bronchodilators
- Inhaled corticosteroids