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COPD. 2011 Jun;8(3):206-43. doi: 10.3109/15412555.2011.560131. Epub 2011 Apr 22.

Triple therapy for the management of COPD: a review.

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Programs for Assessment of Technology in Health (PATH) Research Institute, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario L8P 1H1.


Triple therapy for COPD consists of a long-acting anti-cholinergic bronchodilator, a long-acting beta-agonist bronchodilator, and an inhaled corticosteroid. Guidelines from the Canadian Thoracic Society advocate triple therapy for some patients with moderate-to-severe COPD. The objective of this review was to evaluate the evidence based clinical efficacy of triple therapy compared to dual bronchodilator therapy (long-acting anti-cholinergic bronchodilator + beta-agonist bronchodilator) or long-acting anti-cholinergic bronchodilator monotherapy for managing COPD. A systematic literature search was conducted to identify relevant clinical evaluations of triple therapy in the management of moderate to severe COPD. Databases searched included: Medline; EMBASE; CINAHL and PubMed (non-Medline records only). Of 2,314 publications, 4 articles evaluated triple therapy for the management of COPD. Hospitalization rates for COPD exacerbations, reported in 2 trials, were significantly reduced with triple therapy compared to long-acting anti-cholinergic bronchodilator monotherapy, with reported relative risks of 0.53 (95% CI: 0.33, 0.86, p = 0.01) and 0.35 (95% CI: 0.16-0.78, p = 0.011). Exacerbation data is inconsistent between the two trials reporting this outcome. Lung function, dyspnea and quality of life data show statistical significant changes with triple therapy compared to long-acting anti-cholinergic bronchodilator monotherapy but the changes do not reach clinical importance. Triple therapy does decrease the number of hospitalizations for severe/acute COPD exacerbations compared with long-acting anti-cholinergic bronchodilator monotherapy. There is insufficient evidence to determine if triple therapy is superior to dual bronchodilator therapy.

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