Background: Patients with COPD often require multiple therapies to improve lung function and decrease symptoms and exacerbations. Salmeterol and theophylline are indicated for the treatment of COPD, but the use of these agents in combination has not been extensively studied.
Objectives: To compare the efficacy and safety of salmeterol plus theophylline vs either agent alone in COPD.
Methods: Randomized, double-blind, double-dummy, parallel-group trial in 943 patients with COPD. After an open-label theophylline titration period (serum levels, 10 to 20 microg/mL), patients were randomly assigned to receive salmeterol (42 microg bid) plus theophylline, salmeterol (42 microg bid), or theophylline for 12 weeks. Serial pulmonary function tests were completed on day 1 and treatment week 12. Patients kept diary cards and noted their peak flow rates, symptom scores, and albuterol use, and periodically completed quality-of-life and dyspnea questionnaires.
Results: All three groups significantly improved compared with baseline. Combination treatment with salmeterol plus theophylline provided significantly (p < or = 0.045) greater improvements in pulmonary function; significantly (p < or = 0.048) greater decreases in symptoms, dyspnea, and albuterol use; and significantly fewer COPD exacerbations (p = 0.023 vs theophylline). In general, treatment with salmeterol provided greater improvement in lung function and satisfaction with treatment compared with theophylline. Salmeterol treatment was also associated with significantly fewer drug-related adverse events (p < or = 0.042) than either treatment that included theophylline. The safety profile (adverse events, vital signs, and ECG findings) of the two treatments that included theophylline were similar.
Conclusion: Patients with COPD may benefit from combination treatment with salmeterol plus theophylline, without a resulting increase in adverse events or other adverse sequelae.