Background: Data examining the characteristics of patients with frequent exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and associated hospitalisations and mortality are scarce.
Methods: Post-hoc analysis of the Prevention Of Exacerbations with Tiotropium in COPD (POET-COPD) trial, targeting exacerbations as the primary endpoint. Patients were classified as non-, infrequent, and frequent exacerbators (0, 1, or ≥ 2 exacerbations during study treatment), irrespective of study treatment. A multivariate Cox regression model assessed the effect of covariates on time to first exacerbation.
Results: In total, 7376 patients were included in the analysis: 63.5% non-exacerbators, 22.9% infrequent, 13.6% frequent exacerbators. Factors significantly associated with exacerbation risk were age, sex, body mass index, COPD duration and severity, smoking history, baseline inhaled corticosteroid use, and preceding antibiotic or systemic corticosteroid courses. Frequent exacerbators had greater severity and duration of COPD, received more pulmonary medication, and ≥ 2 systemic corticosteroid or antibiotic courses in the preceding year, and were more likely to be female and ex-smokers. The small proportion of frequent exacerbators (13.6%) accounted for 56.6% of exacerbation-related hospitalisations, which, overall, were associated with a three-fold increase in mortality.
Conclusion: The frequent exacerbator phenotype was closely associated with exacerbation-related hospitalisations, and exacerbation-related hospitalisations were associated with poorer survival.
Trial registration: NCT00563381; Study identifier: BI 205.389.