Deciphering patterns of respiratory medication use in Ireland to target interventions appropriately: a focus on COPD

Ir J Med Sci. 2021 Aug;190(3):1103-1109. doi: 10.1007/s11845-020-02409-x. Epub 2020 Oct 21.


Background: Ireland has the highest rates of overnight hospitalisations for COPD in the OECD, yet lacks estimates of the prevalence of this disease or its pharmacological management. We aimed to estimate the age and sex-specific prevalence of symptomatic COPD and to identify patterns of respiratory medication use to inform interventions to improve pharmacotherapy in this condition.

Methods: We used the national pharmacy claims database, with data on a publically insured cohort in 2016. We restricted to those aged ≥ 45 years with full eligibility for that year and examined the age and sex distribution of respiratory medications, and patterns of medication use in those suggestive of COPD.

Results: In this cohort, 23% filled at least one prescription for a respiratory medication; 14% of males and 16% of females received at least one dispensing of an ICS inhaler. The proportion dispensed a long-acting muscarinic receptor antagonist (LAMA) was considerably lower. Of those newly initiated on a LAMA, 24% did not receive another within 60 days of the last covered day. The prevalence of medication use suggestive of COPD was 15% in males and 16% in females.

Conclusion: The prevalence of medication use consistent with the management of symptomatic COPD mirrors international prevalence estimates. Several patterns raise concern: high ICS use in older adults, under use of LAMA therapy and poor persistence of those newly initiated. We recommend the development of an intervention to assist in the implementation of new national prescribing guidelines for the management of COPD.

Keywords: Age-sex prevalence estimates of symptomatic COPD; Compliance with prescribing guidelines.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / therapeutic use
  • Adrenergic beta-2 Receptor Agonists*
  • Aged
  • Bronchodilator Agents / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ireland / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive* / drug therapy
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive* / epidemiology


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Adrenergic beta-2 Receptor Agonists
  • Bronchodilator Agents