Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences & UBC Division of Respiratory Medicine
Respiratory Evaluation Sciences Program

Research Theme Asthma

Extent, trends, and determinants of controller/reliever balance in mild asthma: a 14-year population-based study



Background: The majority of patients with asthma have the mild form of the disease. Whether mild asthma patients receive appropriate asthma medications has not received much attention in the literature. We examined the trends in indicators of controller/reliever balance.

Methods: Using administrative health databases of British Columbia, Canada (2000 to 2013), we created a population-based cohort of adolescents/adults with mild asthma using validated case definition algorithms. Each patient-year of follow-up was assessed based on two markers of inappropriate medication prescription: whether the ratio of inhaled corticosteroid (ICS, dose-adjusted) to total asthma-related inhaler prescriptions was low (cut-off 0.5 according to previous validation studies), and whether short-acting beta agonists (SABA) were prescribed inappropriately according to previously published criteria that considers SABA in relation to ICS prescriptions. Generalized linear models were used to evaluate trends and to examine the association between patient-, disease-, and healthcare-related factors and medication use.

Results: The final cohort consisted of 195,941 mild asthma patients (59.5% female; mean age at entry 29.6 years) contributing 1.83 million patient-years. In 50.3% of patient-years, ICS was sub-optimally prescribed, while in 7.2%, SABAs were inappropriately prescribed. There was a modest year-over-year decline in inappropriate SABA prescription (relative change -1.3%/year, P<0.001) and ICS-to-total-medications (relative change -0.5%/year, P<0.001) . Among the studied factors, the indices of type and quality of healthcare (namely respirologist consultation and receiving pulmonary function test) had the strongest associations with improvement in controller/reliever balance.

Conclusions: Large number of mild asthma patients continue to be exposed to suboptimal combinations of asthma medications.

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