From the Journals

Eosinophil-guided therapy reduces corticosteroid use in COPD



Using eosinophil levels to guide steroid treatment in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) was found to be noninferior to standard treatment in terms of the number of days out of hospital and alive, new research has found.

Writing in the Lancet Respiratory Medicine, researchers reported the outcomes of a multicenter, controlled, open-label trial comparing eosinophil-guided and standard therapy with systemic corticosteroids in 318 patients with COPD.

Pradeesh Sivapalan, MD, of the respiratory medicine section of Herlev and Gentofte Hospital at the University of Copenhagen, and coauthors wrote that eosinophilic inflammation had been seen in 20%-40% of patients with acute exacerbations of COPD. Patients with higher eosinophilic blood counts were at increased risk of acute exacerbations but were also more likely to benefit from corticosteroid treatment.

In the eosinophil-guided therapy arm of the study, 159 patients received 80 mg of intravenous methylprednisolone on day 1, then from the second day were treated with 37.5 mg of prednisolone oral tablet daily ­– up to 4 days – only on days when their blood eosinophil count was at least 0.3 x 10 cells/L. In the control arm, 159 patients also received 80 mg of intravenous methylprednisolone on day 1, followed by 37.5 mg of prednisolone tablets daily for 4 days.

After 14 days, there were no significant differences between the two groups for mean days alive and out of hospital.

There were 12 more cases of readmission with COPD, including three fatalities, in the eosinophil-guided group within the first month. However the authors said these differences were not statistically significant, but “because the study was not powered to detect differences in this absolute risk range, we cannot rule out that this was an actual harm effect from the interventional strategy.”

The eosinophil-guided therapy group did show more than a 50% reduction in the median duration of systemic corticosteroid therapy, which was 2 days in the eosinophil-guided group, compared with 5 days in the control group (P less than .0001), and the differences between the two groups remained significant at days 30 and 90.

“The tested strategy was successful in reducing the exposure to systemic corticosteroids, but we cannot exclude the possibility that a more aggressive algorithm, such as a single dose of systemic corticosteroid, might have been more effective,” the authors wrote.

At the 90-day follow-up, there were no differences in the number of infections requiring antibiotic treatment, nor in dyspepsia, ulcer complications, or initiation of new proton-pump inhibitor treatment.

The study was supported by the Danish Regions Medical Fund and the Danish Council for Independent Research. Two authors declared personal fees from pharmaceutical companies outside the submitted work. No other conflicts were declared.

SOURCE: Sivapalan P et al. Lancet Respir Med. 2019, May 20. doi: 10.1016/S2213-2600(19)30176-6.

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