International Variation in Severe Exacerbation Rates in Patients With Severe Asthma

Chest. 2024 Feb 21:S0012-3692(24)00264-2. doi: 10.1016/j.chest.2024.02.029. Online ahead of print.


Background: Exacerbation frequency strongly influences treatment choices in patients with severe asthma.

Research question: What is the extent of the variability of exacerbations rate across countries and its implications in disease management?

Study design and methods: We retrieved data from the International Severe Asthma Registry, an international observational cohort of patients with a clinical diagnosis of severe asthma. We identified patients ≥ 18 years of age who did not initiate any biologics prior to baseline visit. A severe exacerbation was defined as the use of oral corticosteroids for ≥ 3 days or asthma-related hospitalization/ED visit. A series of negative binomial models were applied to estimate country-specific severe exacerbation rates during 365 days of follow-up, starting from a naïve model with country as the only variable to an adjusted model with country as a random-effect term and patient and disease characteristics as independent variables.

Results: The final sample included 7,510 patients from 17 countries (56% from the United States), contributing to 1,939 severe exacerbations (0.27/person-year). There was large between-country variation in observed severe exacerbation rate (minimum, 0.04 [Argentina]; maximum, 0.88 [Saudi Arabia]; interquartile range, 0.13-0.54), which remained substantial after adjusting for patient characteristics and sampling variability (interquartile range, 0.16-0.39).

Interpretation: Individuals with similar patient characteristics but coming from different jurisdictions have varied severe exacerbation risks, even after controlling for patient and disease characteristics. This suggests unknown patient factors or system-level variations at play. Disease management guidelines should recognize such between-country variability. Risk prediction models that are calibrated for each jurisdiction will be needed to optimize treatment strategies.

Keywords: asthma; country; heterogeneity; prediction; severe exacerbation.