Budesonide/formoterol maintenance and reliever therapy versus fluticasone/salmeterol fixed-dose treatment in patients with COPD

Thorax. 2023 Feb 1;thorax-2022-219620. doi: 10.1136/thorax-2022-219620. Online ahead of print.


Background: Maintenance and reliever therapy (MART) with inhaled corticosteroid (ICS)/formoterol effectively reduces exacerbations in asthma. We aimed to investigate its efficacy compared with fixed-dose fluticasone/salmeterol in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Methods: Patients with COPD and ≥1 exacerbation in the previous 2 years were randomly assigned to open-label MART (Spiromax budesonide/formoterol 160/4.5 µg 2 inhalations twice daily+1 prn) or fixed-dose therapy (Diskus fluticasone propionate/salmeterol combination (FSC) 500/50 µg 1 inhalation twice daily+salbutamol 100 µg prn) for 1 year. The primary outcome was rate of moderate/severe exacerbations, defined by treatment with oral prednisolone and/or antibiotics.

Results: In total, 195 patients were randomised (MART Bud/Form n=103; fixed-dose FSC n=92). No significant difference was seen between MART and FSC therapy in exacerbation rates (1.32 vs 1.32 /year, respectively, rate ratio 1.05 (95% CI 0.79 to 1.39); p=0.741). No differences in lung function parameters or health status were observed. Total ICS dose was significantly lower with MART than FSC therapy (budesonide-equivalent 928 µg/day vs 1747 µg/day, respectively, p<0.05). Similar proportions of patients reported adverse events (MART Bud/Form: 73% vs fixed-dose FSC: 68%, p=0.408) and pneumonias (MART: 5% vs FSC: 1%, p=0.216).

Conclusions: This first study of MART in COPD found that budesonide/formoterol MART might be similarly effective to fluticasone/salmeterol fixed-dose therapy in moderate to severe patients with COPD, at a lower daily ICS dosage. Further evidence is needed about long-term safety.

Keywords: COPD Exacerbations; COPD Pharmacology.