Quantifying the proportion of severe asthma exacerbations attributable to inhaled corticosteroid nonadherence

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Abstract

Background

Asthma is an inflammatory condition often punctuated by episodic symptomatic worsening, and accordingly, patients with asthma might have waxing and waning adherence to controller therapy.

Objective

We sought to measure changes in inhaled corticosteroid (ICS) adherence over time and to estimate the effect of this changing pattern of use on asthma exacerbations.

Methods

ICS adherence was estimated from electronic prescription and fill information for 298 participants in the Study of Asthma Phenotypes and Pharmacogenomic Interactions by Race-Ethnicity. For each patient, we calculated a moving average of ICS adherence for each day of follow-up. Asthma exacerbations were defined as the need for oral corticosteroids, an asthma-related emergency department visit, or an asthma-related hospitalization. Proportional hazard models were used to assess the relationship between ICS medication adherence and asthma exacerbations.

Results

Adherence to ICS medications began to increase before the first asthma exacerbation and continued afterward. Adherence was associated with a reduction in exacerbations but was only statistically significant among patients whose adherence was greater than 75% of the prescribed dose (hazard ratio, 0.61; 95% CI, 0.41-0.90) when compared with patients whose adherence was 25% or less. This pattern was largely confined to patients whose asthma was not well controlled initially. An estimated 24% of asthma exacerbations were attributable to ICS medication nonadherence.

Conclusions

ICS adherence varies in the time period leading up to and after an asthma exacerbation, and nonadherence likely contributes to a large number of these exacerbations. High levels of adherence are likely required to prevent these events.

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