Patient Care

Inhaled Corticosteroids Increase Risk of Serious Pneumonia in Patients with COPD


Clinical question: Does the risk of pneumonia vary for different inhaled agents?

Background: Inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) are known to increase the risk of pneumonia in COPD patients; duration, dosage, and various agents were investigated, especially fluticasone and budesonide.

Study design: Nested, case-control analysis.

Setting: Quebec health insurance database for new users with COPD, 1990-2005, with follow-up through 2007.

Synopsis: Investigators analyzed 163,514 patients, including 20,344 patients with serious pneumonia; current use of ICS was associated with a 69% increase in the rate of serious pneumonia (RR 1.69; 95% CI 1.63-1.75). The increased risk was sustained with long-term use but declined gradually to zero at six months after stopping ICS. The risk of serious pneumonia was higher with fluticasone (RR 2.01; 95% CI 1.93-2.10) than budesonide (RR 1.17; 95% CI 1.09-1.26).

Bottom line: Fluticasone was associated with an increased risk of pneumonia in COPD patients, consistent with earlier clinical trials, but the risk with budesonide was much lower.

Citation: Suissa S, Patenaude V, Lapi F, Ernst P. Inhaled corticosteroids in COPD and the risk of serious pneumonia. Thorax. 2013;68(11):1029-1036.

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