Characteristics of undertreatment in COPD in the general population

Chest. 2013 Dec;144(6):1811-1818. doi: 10.1378/chest.13-0453.


Background: We wished to characterize undertreatment in COPD.

Methods: Among 5,812 individuals with COPD defined by FEV1/FVC < 0.7 participating in the Copenhagen General Population Study, we identified 920 individuals with FEV1 < 60% predicted. Prescriptions were identified in an all-inclusive nationwide registry. For each individual, we examined treatment with medication in the year before the day of the baseline examination, as well as treatment in the first year after the examination. Multivariable logistic regression analyses were applied in individuals with FEV1 < 60% predicted to identify predictors of treatment in the first year after baseline.

Results: Only 30% of individuals with COPD and FEV1 < 60% predicted were treated with medication in the year before the examination, whereas 42.2% were treated with medication in the first year after. Reporting six to 10 previous respiratory infections during the preceding 10 years that required consulting a doctor and/or staying home from work was the strongest predictor of treatment with medication (OR, 7.9; 95% CI, 3.5-19.8; P < .001). Breathlessness, low FEV1, previous admissions with a discharge diagnosis of COPD, and former smoking were also predictors of treatment with medication, whereas comorbidity predicted lack of treatment. In subgroup analysis, among individuals with FEV1 < 50% predicted, visits to the general practitioner and age were additional predictors of treatment, whereas male sex and being a widow/widower predicted lack of treatment.

Conclusions: In this study, we observed important characteristics of a major undertreatment in individuals with COPD in the general population. Previous reported respiratory infections were the strongest predictors of treatment with medications, which indicates that most COPD treatment is initiated because of acute exacerbations.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / administration & dosage
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / therapeutic use*
  • Aged
  • Bronchodilator Agents / administration & dosage
  • Bronchodilator Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Denmark / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Forced Expiratory Volume / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / drug therapy*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / epidemiology
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / physiopathology*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Respiratory Function Tests
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vital Capacity / physiology*


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Bronchodilator Agents