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Comparative effectiveness of fluoroquinolone antibiotic use in uncomplicated acute exacerbations of COPD: a multi-cohort study


Purpose — Fluoroquinolone antibiotics are associated with rare, but severe adverse events. They are frequently used for the treatment of acute exacerbations of COPD (AECOPD). While their effectiveness in severe exacerbations requiring hospitalisation has been well documented, the potential benefit in the ambulatory setting is less clear, especially in uncomplicated patients with COPD.

Patients and Characteristics — We carried out a retrospective cohort study using healthcare databases from six Canadian provinces in subjects visiting their physician for uncomplicated COPD. Subjects dispensed either a quinolone or other antibiotics were compared using inverse probability of treatment weights with high dimensional propensity scores on 30-day outcomes, including repeat visits, hospitalisation for AECOPD and subsequent antibiotic prescription. Results from each province were combined by random effects meta-analysis.

Results — We identified 286,866 AECOPD events among 203,642 unique individuals. The frequency of fluoroquinolone use, mostly levofloxacin and moxifloxacin, varied by province and ranged from 8% to 32% of AECOPD antibiotic prescriptions. The risk of a repeat ambulatory care visit was increased among patients who were dispensed a fluoroquinolone compared with other antibiotics (OR 1.32, 95% CI 1.27–1.36). The risk of a hospitalisation for AECOPD was also higher with fluoroquinolones (OR 1.52, 95% CI 1.33–1.74). There was no difference in subsequent antibiotic prescriptions (OR 1.00, 95% CI 0.94–1.07).

Conclusion — There is no apparent benefit in short-term outcomes with fluoroquinolones as compared to other antibiotics for the ambulatory treatment of AECOPD in uncomplicated patients. These findings support current recommendations that fluoroquinolones be reserved for AECOPD in patients with recurrent exacerbations, significant co-morbidity or requiring hospitalisation.



Ernst P, Dahl M, Chateau D, Daneman N, Quail J, Sketris IS, Fisher A, Zhang J, Bugden S. Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis. 2019; 14:2939-46. Epub 2019 Dec 18.

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