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Applying the wisdom of stepping down inhaled corticosteroids in patients with COPD: a proposed algorithm for clinical practice

Authors Kaplan A

Received 30 July 2015

Accepted for publication 13 October 2015

Published 20 November 2015 Volume 2015:10(1) Pages 2535—2548

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/COPD.S93321

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Melda Saglam

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Dr Richard Russell


Video abstract presented by Alan G Kaplan.

Views: 742

Alan G Kaplan1,2

1Family Physician Airways Group of Canada, 2Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada


Abstract: Current guidelines for the management of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) recommend limiting the use of inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) to patients with more severe disease and/or increased exacerbation risk. However, there are discrepancies between guidelines and real-life practice, as ICS are being overprescribed. In light of the increasing concerns about the clinical benefit and long-term risks associated with ICS use, therapy needs to be carefully weighed on a case-by-case basis, including in patients already on ICS. Several studies sought out to determine the effects of withdrawing ICS in patients with COPD. Early studies have deterred clinicians from reducing ICS in patients with COPD as they reported that an abrupt withdrawal of ICS precipitates exacerbations, and results in a deterioration in lung function and symptoms. However, these studies were fraught with numerous methodological limitations. Recently, two randomized controlled trials and a real-life prospective study revealed that ICS can be safely withdrawn in certain patients. Of these, the WISDOM (Withdrawal of Inhaled Steroids During Optimized Bronchodilator Management) trial was the largest and first to examine stepwise withdrawal of ICS in patients with COPD receiving maintenance therapy of long-acting bronchodilators (ie, tiotropium and salmeterol). Even with therapy being in line with the current guidelines, the findings of the WISDOM trial indicate that not all patients benefit from including ICS in their treatment regimen. Indeed, only certain COPD phenotypes seem to benefit from ICS therapy, and validated markers that predict ICS response are urgently warranted in clinical practice. Furthermore, we are now better equipped with a larger armamentarium of novel and more effective long-acting β2-agonist/long-acting muscarinic antagonist combinations that can be considered by clinicians to optimize bronchodilation and allow for safer ICS withdrawal. In addition to providing a review of the aforementioned, this perspective article proposes an algorithm for the stepwise withdrawal of ICS in real-life clinical practice.

Keywords: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, inhaled corticosteroid, withdrawal, bronchodilation, clinical practice, algorithm

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