Historical cohort study examining comparative effectiveness of albuterol inhalers with and without integrated dose counter for patients with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

J Asthma Allergy. 2016 Aug 26;9:145-54. doi: 10.2147/JAA.S111170. eCollection 2016.


Background: Using a metered-dose inhaler (MDI) beyond the labeled number of actuations may result in inadequate dosing of medication, which can lead to poor clinical outcomes. This study compared respiratory-related emergency department (ED) visit rates in patients with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or both when they used albuterol MDIs with versus without dose counters.

Methods: This retrospective study used US claims data to identify patients (ages 4-64 years) with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or both, using albuterol MDIs with or without an integrated dose counter. The study comprised a 1-year baseline period for patient characterization and confounder definition and a 1-year outcome period following the first albuterol prescription. The primary end point was the incidence rate of respiratory-related ED visits, compared using a reduced zero-inflated Poisson regression model. We also compared severe exacerbation rates and rescue medication use.

Results: A total of 93,980 patients were studied, including 67,251 (72%) in the dose counter cohort and 26,729 (28%) in the non-dose-counter cohort. The cohorts were broadly similar at baseline (55,069 [59%] female patients; median age, 37 years). The incidence rate of respiratory-related ED visits during the outcome year was 45% lower in the dose counter cohort than in the non-dose-counter cohort (adjusted rate ratio: 0.55; 95% confidence interval: 0.47-0.64). Exacerbation rates and short-acting β-agonist use were similar between cohorts.

Conclusion: These findings suggest that dose counter integration into albuterol MDIs is associated with decreased ED visit rates. The presence of integrated dose counters on rescue inhalers can help patients avoid using an empty or near-empty inhaler during exacerbations, thereby ensuring available medication for relief of their symptoms. Integrated dose counters on rescue MDIs could represent a simple and effective tool to improve clinical outcomes during exacerbations, with a potential for cost savings to health care systems.

Keywords: albuterol; asthma; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; dose counter; effectiveness; inhaler.