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COPD. 2014 Jun;11(3):300-9. doi: 10.3109/15412555.2013.841671. Epub 2013 Oct 23.

COPD exacerbation frequency, pharmacotherapy and resource use: an observational study in UK primary care.

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  • 11Department of Primary Care Research, University of Southampton , UK.


Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) management represents a significant health resource use burden. Understanding of current resource use, treatment strategies and outcomes can improve future COPD management, for patient benefit and to aid efficient service delivery. This study aimed to describe exacerbation frequency, pharmacotherapy and health resource use in COPD management in routine UK primary care. A retrospective, observational study using routine clinical records of 511 patients with COPD, was undertaken in 10 General Practices in England. Up to 3 years' patient data were collected and analysed. 75% (234/314) patients with mild-moderate COPD (≥50% predicted FEV1) received inhaled corticosteroids (ICS). 11% of patients (54/511) received ICS monotherapy. Mean (standard deviation) annual exacerbation frequency was 1.1 (1.2) in mild-moderate, 1.7 (1.6) in severe (30-49% predicted FEV1) and 2.2 (2.0) in very severe (<30% predicted FEV1) COPD. 14% patients (69/511) had a mean exacerbation frequency of ≥3/year ('frequent-exacerbators'); 9% (27/314) of patients with mild-moderate, 19% (27/145) with severe and 29% (15/52) with very severe COPD. 14% (10/69) of frequent-exacerbators failed to receive inhaled long-acting beta agonists (LABA), 25% (17/69) inhaled long-acting muscarinic antagonists (LAMA), and 12% (`/69) ICS. Frequent-exacerbators had a median of 6.67 primary care contacts/year, 1.0 secondary care visits/year and 21% were hospitalised for COPD/year. Inhaled therapy was frequently inappropriate, with over-use of ICS in patients with mild-moderate COPD. COPD exacerbations were associated with high health resource use and occurred at all levels of disease severity. COPD management strategies should encompass risk-stratification for both exacerbation frequency and physiological impairment.


Health economics; Inhaled corticosteroids; disease severity; long-acting beta agonists; long-acting muscarinic antagonists; retrospective study

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