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Prescription Patterns in Asthma Patients Initiating Salmeterol in UK General Practice

A Retrospective Cohort Study using the General Practice Research Database (GPRD)


Background: An association between salmeterol, a long-acting β2-agonist (LABA), use and rare serious asthma events or asthma mortality was observed in two large clinical trials. This has resulted in heightened scrutiny of LABAs and comprehensive reviews by regulatory agencies.

Objective: The aim of this retrospective observational cohort study was to better characterize salmeterol medication use patterns in the UK. We describe asthma prescription patterns in a cohort of patients (n = 17 745) in the General Practice Research Database who initiated treatment with salmeterol-containing prescriptions between 2003 and 2006, including salmeterol and salmeterol/fluticasone propionate in a single device.

Methods: Prescriptions patterns by medication class, including concurrent prescription of salmeterol with inhaled corticosteroids (ICS), were described using 6-month intervals in the 1-year period before and after the salmeterol-containing index prescription.

Results: In the 0- to 6-month and 7- to 12-month periods prior to initiation of the salmeterol-containing prescription, the cohort experienced worsening of asthma, measured by an increase in the proportion of patients with prescriptions for short-acting β-agonists [SABA] (73–89%), ICS (70–81%) and systemic corticosteroids (14–28%). Nearly all patients prescribed salmeterol were concurrently prescribed ICS (≥95% within 90 days). In the 12 months following initiation of the salmeterol-containing prescription, a decrease in asthma prescriptions was observed.

Discussion: These results support the appropriate prescribing of salmeterol-containing medications, as per recommendations in asthma treatment guidelines in the UK.

Conclusion: Salmeterol was consistently prescribed as an add-on asthma-controller with an ICS for most patients, and was associated with improvements in asthma control, as indicated by decreases in SABA and systemic corticosteroid prescriptions following salmeterol introduction.

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This research was funded by GlaxoSmithKline, and all authors are employed by GlaxoSmithKline or were employed by GlaxoSmithKline during the writing of this manuscript. The authors declare no other conflicts of interest or financial interest in any product or service mentioned in this article.

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Correspondence to Dr Rachael L. Di Santostefano.

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Di Santostefano, R.L., Davis, K.J. Prescription Patterns in Asthma Patients Initiating Salmeterol in UK General Practice. Drug-Safety 34, 511–520 (2011).

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  • Asthma
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
  • Index Date
  • Salmeterol
  • Asthma Medication