Background — Ipratropium is commonly used for the management of elderly patients with obstructive airway disease. However, a recent report suggested that its use might be associated with a significant increase in mortality. A study was therefore conducted to compare all-cause mortality rates between users and non-users of ipratropium in elderly patients with either asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Methods — A retrospective cohort study was performed using linked data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information, the Ontario Drug Benefit Program, the Ontario Health Insurance Plan, and the Ontario Registered Persons database. A total of 32 393 patients were identified who were aged 65 years or older and who had been discharged from hospital with asthma or COPD between 1 April 1992 and 31 March 1997. All-cause mortality rates were compared between those treated and those not treated with ipratropium following discharge from hospital.
Results — In total, 49% of patients received ipratropium within 90 days of discharge. After adjusting for age, sex, comorbidity, use of health services, and other airway medications there was no significant association in patients with COPD between the use of ipratropium and mortality (relative risk (RR) 1.03; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.98 to 1.08). In patients with asthma, however, there was a slight increase in the relative risk of mortality associated with the use of ipratropium (RR 1.24; 95% CI 1.11 to 1.39). A dose-response increase in the mortality rate was not observed with increasing use of ipratropium in either COPD or asthma.
Conclusions — The use of ipratropium in patients with COPD was not associated with an increase in mortality. However, in asthma there was a small increase in the mortality rate. Since asthmatic patients who received ipratropium had greater use of other airway medications and health services, the difference in mortality rate between users and non-users may be a reflection of unmeasured differences in asthma severity.
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Geriatrics and aging