Comparative mortality risk of tiotropium administered via handihaler or respimat in COPD patients: are they equivalent?

Pulm Pharmacol Ther. 2014 Aug;28(2):91-7. doi: 10.1016/j.pupt.2014.04.009. Epub 2014 May 16.


Background: Tiotropium bromide, once daily, long-acting anticholinergic bronchodilator is either administered by handihaler metered dose inhaler or by respimat soft mist inhaler. It has been proved to improve lung function, daily symptoms and quality of life and to decrease the exacerbation and hospitalisation rate of patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Although the efficacy of both formulations is undeniable, concerns have been raised on their effect on cardiovascular and general mortality.

Methods: Two independent authors systematically reviewed Medline, Scopus, Cochrane Library and to collect clinical trials, observational studies and meta-analyses studying the safety of tiotropium. The reference list of all the included studies were also reviewed.

Results: Limited, early studies suggested a potential increase in cardiovascular and general mortality associated with tiotropium handihaler, but these data were outweighed by following larger trials, real-life studies and meta-analyses which proved the opposite. On the other hand, data on tiotropium respimat (5 μg) have been contradictory, with different studies suggesting increased cardiovascular and general mortality compared to handihaler (18 μg) or placebo, especially in patients with comorbid diseases. TIOSPIR trial suggests comparable safety of the two formulations. However the exclusion of patients with pre-existing unstable cardiovascular disease, moderate or severe kidney disease or any other significantly disease may limit the generizability of these results.

Conclusion: Although the two tiotropium formulations have similar efficacy, current data cannot prove safety equivalence, since respimat may be associated with increased cardiovascular and general mortality, especially in patients with comorbid diseases.

Keywords: COPD; Human; Respimat; Safety; Systematic review; Tiotropium.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Bronchodilator Agents / administration & dosage
  • Bronchodilator Agents / adverse effects*
  • Bronchodilator Agents / therapeutic use
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / mortality
  • Humans
  • Metered Dose Inhalers
  • Nebulizers and Vaporizers
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / drug therapy*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / mortality
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / physiopathology
  • Quality of Life
  • Scopolamine Derivatives / administration & dosage
  • Scopolamine Derivatives / adverse effects*
  • Scopolamine Derivatives / therapeutic use
  • Tiotropium Bromide


  • Bronchodilator Agents
  • Scopolamine Derivatives
  • Tiotropium Bromide