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Effectiveness and safety of inhaled corticosteroids in older individuals with COPD and/or asthma: a population study


Rationale — Inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) are established medications for the management of both asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), two common chronic airway diseases. However, there is still uncertainty with respect to their use in some cases, specifically in older adults with asthma, people with concurrent asthma and COPD, and some people with COPD (given the association of ICS with pneumonia). 

Objectives — To compare the effectiveness and safety of ICS in older adults with asthma, COPD, or features of both in a real-word setting. 

Methods — In this retrospective longitudinal population cohort study, individuals 66 years of age or older in Ontario, Canada, who met a validated case definition of physician-diagnosed COPD and/or asthma between 2003 and 2014 were followed until March 2015 through provincial health administrative data. Overlap in COPD and asthma diagnoses was permitted and stratified for in subgroup analyses. The exposure was new receipt of ICS. The primary effectiveness and safety outcomes were hospitalizations for obstructive lung disease (OLD) and hospitalizations for pneumonia, respectively. Propensity scores were used to adjust for confounders. 

Results — The study included 87,690 individuals with asthma (27% with concurrent COPD) and 150,593 individuals with COPD (25% with concurrent asthma). In terms of effectiveness, controlling for confounders, ICS was associated with fewer hospitalizations for OLD (hazard ratio [HR], 0.84; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.79-0.88) in subjects with asthma alone, with concurrent COPD attenuating the benefit. A similar association was seen in subjects with COPD and concurrent asthma (HR, 0.88; 95% CI, 0.84-0.92), but not in those with COPD alone, where ICS receipt had little impact on hospitalizations. In terms of safety, ICS receipt was associated with a marginally increased risk of pneumonia hospitalizations in people with COPD and no asthma (HR, 1.03; 95% CI, 1.00-1.06), but not in the other groups. 

Conclusions — ICS was associated with fewer hospitalizations for OLD in older adults with asthma and concurrent asthma and COPD, but had little impact on OLD and pneumonia hospitalizations in those with COPD alone.



Kendzerska T, Aaron SD, To T, Licskai C, Stanbrook M, Vozoris N, Hogan ME, Tan WC, Bourbeau J, Gershon AS, Canadian Respiratory Research Network. Ann Am Thorac Soc. 2019; 16(10):1252-62. Epub 2019 Jul 12.

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