Conference Coverage

Pulmonologist: In COPD, try dual therapy before adding corticosteroid



– While triple therapy is effective for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), not all patients actually need the inhaled corticosteroid component to reduce exacerbations, a Mayo Clinic pulmonologist said at the annual meeting of the American College of Physicians.

Dr. Megan Dulohery Scrodin, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Andrew D. Bowser/MDedge News

Dr. Megan Dulohery Scrodin

“When you’re increasing therapy, we can go to a dual-bronchodilator combination before adding corticosteroids,” Megan Dulohery Scrodin, MD, of Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., noted in a well-attended session.

That approach came as news to many internists, at least going by results of an audience poll in which 76% of attendees picked triple therapy for a 65-year-old male with COPD and frequent exacerbations despite having used a long-acting muscarinic antagonist (LAMA). Only 10% picked what Dr. Dulohery Scrodin said was optimal: to keep the patient on the LAMA, and add a long-acting beta-agonist (LABA).

“I would encourage you to do this as a stepwise process,” Dr. Dulohery Scrodin told attendees after seeing those poll results.

For a patient with minimal symptoms and few exacerbations, the best approach is a short-acting bronchodilator plus smoking cessation, avoidance of environmental triggers, and keeping up to date with vaccinations, she said.

For patients with more severe symptoms or frequent exacerbations, adding a LAMA or LABA would be warranted, along with considering pulmonary rehabilitation.

“There’s been studies comparing long-acting muscarinic antagonists to long-acting beta agonists, and the long-acting muscarinic antagonists like tiotropium seem to be superior,” she said. “So I always do a LAMA inhaler first.”

For patients still having exacerbations despite one long-acting bronchodilator, the best approach would be to add the second bronchodilator, and if that still doesn’t work, she said, add an inhaled corticosteroid and consider a pulmonary consultation for advanced therapy.

“If the patient doesn’t need an inhaled corticosteroid, we try to avoid it and use dual bronchodilator therapy,” said Dr. Dulohery Scrodin, noting that inhaled corticosteroids are associated with increased risk of pneumonia, along with other complications such as dysphonia and oral candidiasis.

In studies, single-inhaler triple therapy with fluticasone furoate, umeclidinium, and vilanterol does seem to reduce exacerbations more than LABA/LAMA combination therapy or LABA/inhaled corticosteroid treatment, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it should be automatically chosen over dual therapy, the presenter noted.

“Similar to asthma, I would do the least amount of therapy that your patient gets under control,” she told the audience.

Dr. Dulohery Scrodin reported that she had no relevant disclosures.

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