Rationale: Exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) greatly contribute to declining health status and the progression of the disease, thereby incurring significant direct and indirect health care costs. The prevention of exacerbations, therefore, is an important treatment goal.
Objectives: To assess the impact of combination therapy with salmeterol/fluticasone propionate compared with salmeterol alone on moderate and severe exacerbations in patients with severe COPD and a history of repeated exacerbations.
Methods: Randomized, double-blind, parallel-group study. After a 4-wk run-in period, 994 clinically stable patients were randomized to one of two treatment groups: 507 patients received the salmeterol/fluticasone combination 50/500 micro g twice daily and 487 received salmeterol 50 micro g twice daily for 44 wk.
Main results: The total number of exacerbations was 334 in the combination therapy and 464 in the salmeterol group (p < 0.0001). The annualized rate of moderate and severe exacerbations per patient was 0.92 in the combination therapy and 1.4 in the salmeterol group, corresponding to a 35% decrease. In addition, the mean time to first exacerbation in the combination therapy group was significantly longer compared with that of the salmeterol group (128 vs. 93 d, p < 0.0001). Other endpoints, including health-related quality of life, peak expiratory flow, and use of rescue medication, were significantly improved in the combination therapy group. Both treatments were well tolerated.
Conclusions: This study demonstrates that combination therapy with salmeterol/fluticasone compared with salmeterol monotherapy significantly reduces the frequency of moderate/severe exacerbations in patients with severe COPD.