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Perceptions of COPD patients of the proposed withdrawal of inhaled corticosteroids prescribed outside guidelines: A qualitative study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Gill Gilworth, Timothy Harries, Chris Corrigan, Mike Thomas, Patrick White

Original languageEnglish
JournalChronic Respiratory Disease
Accepted/In press13 Apr 2019
Published12 Jun 2019

King's Authors


Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease guidelines support the prescription of fixed combination inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) and long-acting β-agonists in symptomatic COPD patients with frequent or severe exacerbations, with the aim of preventing them. ICS are frequently also prescribed to COPD patients with mild or moderate airflow limitation, outside guidelines, with the risk of unwanted effects. No investigation to date has addressed the views of these milder COPD patients on ICS withdrawal. The objective is to assess the views of COPD patients with mild or moderate airflow limitation on the staged withdrawal of ICS prescribed outside guidelines. One-to-one semi-structured qualitative interviews exploring COPD patients’ views about ICS use and their attitudes to proposed de-prescription were conducted. Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Thematic analysis was completed. Seventeen eligible COPD patients were interviewed. Many participants were not aware they were using an ICS. None was aware that prevention of exacerbations was the indication for ICS therapy or the risk of associated side effects. Some were unconcerned by what they perceived as low individual risk. Others expressed fears of worsening symptoms on withdrawal. Most with mild or moderate airflow limitation would have been willing to attempt withdrawal or titration to a lower dosage of ICS if advised by their clinician, particularly if a reasoned explanation were offered. Attitudes in this study to discontinuing ICS use varied. Knowledge of the drug itself, the indications for its prescription in COPD and potential for side effects, was scant. The proposed withdrawal of ICS is likely to be challenging and requires detailed conversations between patients and respiratory healthcare professionals.

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