(Cost-)effectiveness of self-treatment of exacerbations in patients with COPD: 2 years follow-up of a RCT

Respirology. 2016 Apr;21(3):497-503. doi: 10.1111/resp.12697. Epub 2015 Dec 9.


Background and objective: Long-term effectiveness of action plans in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is minimally investigated. We have evaluated the (cost-)effectiveness of a self-management programme with or without self-treatment of exacerbations after 2 years follow-up.

Methods: Self-management with or without self-treatment of exacerbations was randomly assigned to patients. All patients participated in four self-management meetings. Patients in the self-treatment group (STG) also learned to use an action plan to start a course of prednisolone and/or antibiotics in case of worsening of symptoms. Primary outcome was the duration and severity of exacerbations.

Results: Data of 70 COPD patients in the STG and 72 patients in the control group (CG) were analysed. Over 2 years, the median number of exacerbation days was significantly lower in the STG (50, IQR: 32-115) compared with the CG (82, IQR: 22-186) (P = 0.047), as was the mean symptom score of an exacerbation (STG: 43.4, IQR 27.2-68.6 vs CG: 55.9, IQR: 31.2-96.8) (P = 0.029). Also, patients in the STG visited the respiratory physician and emergency department less frequently than patients in the CG with incidence rate ratios of 1.52 (95% CI: 1.28-1.79) and 2.27 (95% CI: 1.11-4.62), respectively. Direct medical costs per patient over 2 years were €1078 lower in the STG.

Conclusion: Self-treatment of exacerbations is beneficial in COPD patients without significant comorbidities because it reduces exacerbation duration, exacerbation severity and health-care utilization leading to considerable cost savings.

Keywords: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; cost-effectiveness; exacerbation; quality of life; self-management.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Contraindications
  • Cost of Illness*
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Glucocorticoids / administration & dosage
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prednisolone / administration & dosage*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / economics*
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / physiopathology
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / therapy
  • Quality of Life*
  • Self Care*


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Prednisolone