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COPD. 2018 Feb;15(1):17-20. doi: 10.1080/15412555.2018.1424815.

Spirometric Criteria for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease in Clinical Trials of Pharmacotherapy.

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a Department of Internal Medicine , Veterans Affairs (VA) Connecticut Healthcare System , West Haven , Connecticut , USA.
b Department of Internal Medicine , Yale University School of Medicine , New Haven , Connecticut , USA.


Clinical trials of pharmacotherapy in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) often include older persons with moderate-to-severe airflow-obstruction, as defined by the Global Initiative for chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD). In this context, spirometric airflow-obstruction establishes COPD. Because GOLD misidentifies COPD and its severity in older persons, we set out to apply more age-appropriate spirometric criteria from the Global Lung function Initiative (GLI) in a prior clinical trial of COPD pharmacotherapy, specifically the Towards a Revolution in COPD Health (TORCH) trial - N = 6,112, mean age 65 years. In the TORCH trial, which enrolled GOLD-defined moderate COPD (26.2%, n = 1,200) and GOLD-defined severe COPD (73.8%, n = 4,511), the GLI reclassification yielded a higher frequency of severe COPD (89.6%, n = 5,474), the inclusion of restrictive-pattern (6.9%, n = 420) and, in turn, a very low frequency of moderate COPD (3.5%, n = 212). These GLI reclassification results suggest that GOLD-based enrollment criteria for the TORCH trial may have assembled a cohort that was: 1) less likely to respond to COPD pharmacotherapy, given the greater representation of severe COPD, very minor representation of moderate COPD, and inclusion of a non-obstructive spirometric impairment (restrictive-pattern); and 2) more likely to have medication-related adverse events, given the inappropriate use of COPD pharmacotherapy in misidentified COPD (restrictive-pattern). We therefore propose that future clinical trials of COPD pharmacotherapy should consider GLI criteria for defining COPD, including a greater representation of GLI-defined moderate COPD.


COPD; pharmacotherapy; spirometry

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