While the slope of decline in FEV1 has traditionally been calculated from the post- rather than the pre-bronchodilator measurement in COPD interventional trials, it is not clear whether and to what extent these two slopes differ in symptomatic patients with COPD. Therefore, we used data from the 4-year UPLIFT trial of tiotropium 18 mcg QD vs. placebo to compare annual rates of change in pre- vs. post-bronchodilator FEV1 in 5041 patients with moderate to very severe COPD (mean FEV1 48% pred) in whom the post-bronchodilator FEV1 was measured after 4 inhalations of two different classes of short-acting inhaled bronchodilators at baseline and 1 month and every 6 months post-randomization over 4 years. Linear mixed effects models were used to estimate annual rates of decline in FEV1 and FVC pre- and post-bronchodilator in each treatment group separately, after adjusting for height, gender, smoking status, baseline % predicted FEV1 or FVC, and baseline acute % improvement in lung function. The slopes of the post-bronchodilator FEV1 and FVC were significantly steeper than the pre-bronchodilator slopes regardless of treatment arm (p < 0.001), while the estimated variances of the slopes were similar. Post-bronchodilator increases in FEV1 and FVC diminished progressively and significantly (p < 0.0001) over the 4-year trial, suggesting a possible explanation for the significant differences between the pre- and post-bronchodilator slopes. While the reasons for these differences are not completely clear, they are important to consider when assessing treatment effects on rates of decline in FEV1 and FVC.
Keywords: COPD; Post-bronchodilator; Slope of FEV(1) decline; UPLIFT.
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