Health and cost impact of stepping down asthma medication for UK patients, 2001–2017: A population-based observational study

Autoři: Chloe I. Bloom aff001;  Laure de Preux aff002;  Aziz Sheikh aff003;  Jennifer K. Quint aff001
Působiště autorů: National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College London, London, United Kingdom aff001;  Imperial College Business School, Imperial College London, London, United Kingdom aff002;  Asthma UK Centre for Applied Research, Usher Institute, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom aff003
Vyšlo v časopise: Health and cost impact of stepping down asthma medication for UK patients, 2001–2017: A population-based observational study. PLoS Med 17(7): e32767. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1003145
Kategorie: Research Article



Guidelines recommend stepping down asthma treatment to the minimum effective dose to achieve symptom control, prevent adverse side effects, and reduce costs. Limited data exist on asthma prescription patterns in a real-world setting. We aimed to evaluate the appropriateness of doses prescribed to a UK general asthma population and assess whether stepping down medication increased exacerbations or reliever use, as well as its impact on costs.

Methods and findings

We used nationwide UK primary care medical records, 2001–2017, to identify 508,459 adult asthma patients managed with preventer medication. Prescriptions of higher-level medication: medium/high-dose inhaled corticosteroids (ICSs) or ICSs + add-on medication (long-acting β2-agonist [LABA], leukotriene receptor antagonist [LTRA], theophylline, or long-acting muscarinic antagonist [LAMA]) steadily increased over time (2001 = 49.8%, 2017 = 68.3%). Of those prescribed their first preventer, one-third were prescribed a higher-level medication, of whom half had no reliever prescription or exacerbation in the year prior. Of patients first prescribed ICSs + 1 add-on, 70.4% remained on the same medication during a mean follow-up of 6.6 years. Of those prescribed medium/high-dose ICSs as their first preventer, 13.0% already had documented diabetes, cataracts, glaucoma, or osteopenia/osteoporosis. A cohort of 125,341 patients were drawn to assess the impact of stepping down medication: mean age 50.4 years, 39.4% males, 39,881 stepped down. Exposed patients were stepped down by dropping their LABAs or another add-on or by halving their ICS dose (halving their mean-daily dose or their inhaler dose). The primary and secondary outcomes were, respectively, exacerbations and an increase in reliever prescriptions. Multivariable regression was used to assess outcomes and determine the prognostic factors for initiating stepdown. There was no increased exacerbation risk for each possible medication stepdown (adjusted hazard ratio, 95% CI, p-value: ICS inhaler dose = 0.86, 0.77–0.93, p < 0.001; ICS mean daily = 0.80, 0.74–0.87, p < 0.001; LABA = 1.01, 0.92–1.11, p = 0.87, other add-on = 1.00, 0.91–1.09, p = 0.79) and no increase in reliever prescriptions (adjusted odds ratio, 95% CI, p-value: ICS inhaler dose = 0.99, 0.98–1.00, p = 0.59; ICS mean daily = 0.78, 0.76–0.79, p < 0.001; LABA = 0.83, 0.82–0.85, p < 0.001; other add-on = 0.86, 0.85–0.87, p < 0.001). Prognostic factors to initiate stepdown included medication burden, but not medication side effects. National Health Service (NHS) indicative prices were used for cost estimates. Stepping down medication, either LABAs or ICSs, could save annually around £17,000,000 or £8,600,000, respectively. Study limitations include the possibility that prescribed medication may not have been dispensed or adhered to and the reason for stepdown was not documented.


In this UK study, we observed that asthma patients were increasingly prescribed higher levels of treatment, often without clear clinical indication for such high doses. Stepping down medication did not adversely affect outcomes and was associated with substantial cost savings.

Klíčová slova:

Adverse reactions – Asthma – Cataracts – diabetes mellitus – Drug therapy – Primary care – Receptor antagonist therapy – Treatment guidelines


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