Patient Care

Discontinuing Inhaled Corticosteroids in COPD Reduces Risk of Pneumonia


Clinical question: Is discontinuation of inhaled corticosteroids (ICSs) in patients with COPD associated with a decreased risk of pneumonia?

Background: ICSs are used in up to 85% of patients treated for COPD but may be associated with adverse systemic side effects including pneumonia. Trials looking at weaning patients off ICSs and replacing with long-acting bronchodilators have found few adverse outcomes; however, the benefits of discontinuation on adverse events, including pneumonia, have been unclear.

Study design: Case-control study.

Setting: Quebec health systems.

Synopsis: Using the Quebec health insurance databases, a study cohort of 103,386 patients with COPD on ICSs was created. Patients were followed for a mean of 4.9 years; 14,020 patients who were hospitalized for pneumonia or died from pneumonia outside the hospital were matched to control subjects. Discontinuation of ICSs was associated with a 37% decrease in serious pneumonia (relative risk [RR] 0.63; 95% CI, 0.60–0.66). The risk reduction occurred as early as one month after discontinuation of ICSs. Risk reduction was greater with fluticasone (RR 0.58; 95% CI, 0.54–0.61) than with budesonide (RR 0.87; 95% CI, 0.7–0.97).

Population size and follow-up may contribute to why risk reduction in pneumonia was seen in this study but not in other recent randomized trials on discontinuation of ICSs. A limitation of this study was its observational design; however, its results suggest that use of ICSs in COPD patients should be highly selective, as indiscriminate use can subject patients to elevated risk of hospitalization or death from pneumonia.

Bottom line: Discontinuation of ICSs in patients with COPD is associated with a decreased risk of contracting serious pneumonia. This reduction appears greatest with fluticasone.

Citation: Suissa S, Coulombe J, Ernst P. Discontinuation of inhaled corticosteroids in COPD and the risk reduction of pneumonia. Chest. 2015;148(5):1177-1183.

Short Take

Increase in Rates of Prescription Drug Use and Polypharmacy Seen

The percentage of Americans who reported taking prescription medications increased substantially from 1999 to 2012 (51% to 59%), as did the percentage who reported taking at least five prescription medications.

Citation: Kantor ED, Rehm CD, Haas JS, Chan AT, Giovannucci EL. Trends in prescription drug use among adults in the United States from 1999-2012. JAMA. 2015;314(17):1818-1830.

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