Background: Triple combination therapy involving long-acting muscarinic antagonists long-acting β2 agonists, and inhaled corticosteroids has recently become an option for maintenance treatment of COPD. Some add-on clinical trials have reported the benefits of these combinations. However, the process to step up to triple therapy varies for individual cases. Methods: Keio University and affiliated hospitals conducted an observational COPD cohort study, recruiting patients diagnosed as having COPD by pulmonary physicians and those referred for investigation of possible COPD. Their prescription history and clinical course were retrospectively analyzed based on the physicians’ medical records and patient questionnaires. This study was registered with UMIN (UMIN000003470, April 10, 2010). Results: A total of 95 of the 445 COPD patients (21%) were treated with inhaled corticosteroids/long-acting β2 agonists/long-acting muscarinic antagonists as maintenance therapy, including 12 in COPD Grade I, 31 in Grade II, 38 in Grade III, and 14 in Grade IV, based on the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease spirometric grading. For more than half of the patients on triple therapy, the treatment had been intensified due to unsatisfactory improvement of symptoms, and 32% were treated with triple therapy due to comorbid asthma. In contrast, there were COPD patients whose therapy was maintained after starting with triple therapy because of their serious conditions or concurrent exacerbation at diagnosis (8%). Conclusion: Triple therapy was often prescribed in the real-life management of COPD, even in patients whose airflow limitation was not severe. To better control symptoms was the major reason for choosing triple therapy, regardless of the severity of COPD, in Japan.
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