Overcoming therapeutic inertia to reduce the risk of COPD exacerbations: Four action points for healthcare professionals

Dave Singh, Steve Holmes, Claire Adams, Mona Bafadhel, John R. Hurst*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Therapeutic inertia, defined as failure to escalate or initiate adequate therapy when treatment goals are not met, contributes to poor management of COPD exacerbations. Methods: A multidisciplinary panel of five expert clinicians actively managing COPD and representative of UK practice developed action points to reduce exacerbation risk, based on evidence, clinical expertise, and experience. The action points are applicable despite changing circumstances (eg, virtual clinics). The panel agreed areas where further evidence is needed. Results: The four action points were (1) an experienced HCP, such as a GP or member of the multi-professional COPD team should review patients within one month of every exacerbation that requires oral steroids, antibiotics, or hospitalization to address modifiable risk factors, optimize non-pharmacological measures, and evaluate pharmacological therapy. (2) Presenting to hospital with an exacerbation defines an important window of opportunity to reduce the risk of further exacerbations. Follow-up by a GP, or member of the multiprofessional specialist COPD team within one month of discharge with a full management review and appropriate escalation of pharmacological treatment is essential. (3) Healthcare professionals (HCPs) in all healthcare settings should be able to recognize COPD exacerbations, refer as appropriate and document the episode accurately in medical records across service boundaries. HCPs should support patients to recognize and report exacerbations. (4) HCPs should intervene proactively based on risk assessments, disease activity and any treatable traits at or as soon as possible after diagnosis and annually thereafter. Delivering these action points needs coordinated action with policymakers, funders, and service providers. Conclusion: These action points should be a fundamental part of clinical practice to determine if a change in management is necessary to reduce the risk of exacerbations. Policymakers should use these action points to develop systems and initiatives that reduce the risk of further exacerbations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3009-3016
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of COPD
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Biomarkers
  • Control
  • Health policy
  • Inhaled therapy
  • Mortality
  • Primary care


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