International Differences in the Frequency of COPD Exacerbations Reported in Three Clinical Trials

Peter M.a. Calverley, Fernando J. Martinez, Jørgen Vestbo, Christine R. Jenkins, Robert Wise, David A. Lipson, Nicholas J. Cowans, Julie Yates, Courtney Crim, Bartolome R Celli

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Rationale: Exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are an important endpoint in multinational clinical treatment trials, but the observed event rate is often lower than anticipated and appears to vary between countries. Objectives: We investigated whether systematic differences in national exacerbation rates might explain this observed variation. Methods: We reviewed data from three large multicenter international randomized trials conducted over an 18-year period with different designs and clinical severities of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, comparing bronchodilator and/or inhaled corticosteroids with bronchodilators alone and/or placebo. Exacerbations were defined by antibiotic and/or oral corticosteroid use (moderate) or need for hospitalization (severe). We calculated crude exacerbation rates in the 30 countries contributing 30 or more patients to at least two trials. We grouped data by exacerbation rate based on their first study contribution. Measurements and Main Results: For the 29,756 patients in 41 countries analyzed, the mean exacerbation rate was 2–3-fold different between the highest and lowest tertiles of the recruiting nations. These differences were not explained by demographic features, study protocol, or reported exacerbation history at enrolment. Of the 18 countries contributing to all studies, half of those in the highest and half in the lowest tertiles of exacerbation history remained in these groups across studies. Severe exacerbations showed a different rank order internationally. Conclusions: Countries contributing to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease trials differ consistently in their reporting of health care-defined exacerbations. These differences help explain why large studies have been needed to show differences between treatments that decrease exacerbation risk.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine
Early online date1 Apr 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Apr 2022


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