A single inhaler containing inhaled corticosteroid (ICS)/long-acting beta-agonist (LABA)/long-acting muscarinic antagonist (LAMA) is a more convenient way of delivering triple therapy in patients with COPD. Single triple therapy has been shown to be superior at reducing exacerbations and improving quality of life compared to LABA/LAMA, especially in patients with a prior history of frequent exacerbations and blood eosinophilia, who have ICS responsive disease. The corollary is that patients with infrequent exacerbations who are noneosinophilic may be safely de-escalated from triple therapy to LABA/LAMA without loss of control. Pointedly, there is a substantially increased risk of pneumonia associated with the triple therapy containing fluticasone furoate but not beclometasone dipropionate or budesonide. Since triple therapy is also better than ICS/LABA at reducing exacerbations and improving lung function, symptoms, and quality of life, this brings into question the rationale for using ICS/LABA. Hence, we propose a simplified pragmatic decision process based on symptoms, prior to exacerbation history, and blood eosinophils to select which patients should be given a single triple inhaler or LABA/LAMA. Differences in patient preference of inhaler device, formulations and drugs will also determine which triple inhaler prescribers elect to use.
Keywords: COPD; exacerbation; inhaled corticosteroid; long-acting beta-agonist; long-acting muscarinic antagonist; lung function.