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Duan KI, Donovan LM, Spece LJ, Feemster LC, Bryant AD, Plumley R, Collins MP, Au DH. Trends and Rural-Urban Differences in the Initial Prescription of Low-Value Inhaled Corticosteroids among U.S. Veterans with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Annals of the American Thoracic Society. 2023 May 1; 20(5):668-676.
Guidelines recommend inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and select indications, including asthma history, high exacerbation risk, or high serum eosinophils. ICS are commonly prescribed outside of these indications, despite evidence of harm. We defined a "low-value" ICS prescription as the receipt of an ICS without evidence of a guideline-recommended indication. ICS prescription patterns are not well characterized and could inform health system interventions to reduce low-value practices. To evaluate the national trends in initial low-value ICS prescriptions in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and to determine whether rural-urban differences in low-value ICS prescribing exist. We performed a cross-sectional study between January 4, 2010, and December 31, 2018, identifying veterans with COPD who were new users of inhaler therapy. We defined low-value ICS as prescriptions in patients with ) no asthma, ) low risk of future exacerbation (Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease group A or B), and ) serum eosinophils < 300 cells/µl. We performed multivariable logistic regression to evaluate trends in low-value ICS prescription over time, adjusting for potential confounders. We performed fixed effects logistic regression to assess rural-urban prescribing patterns. We identified a total of 131,009 veterans with COPD starting inhaler therapy, 57,472 (44%) of whom were prescribed low-value ICS as initial therapy. From 2010 to 2018, the probability of receiving low-value ICS as initial therapy increased by 0.42 percentage points per year (95% confidence interval, 0.31-0.53). Compared with urban residence, rural residence was associated with a 2.5-percentage-point (95% confidence interval, 1.9-3.1) higher probability of receiving low-value ICS as initial therapy. The prescription of low-value ICS as initial therapy is common and increasing slightly over time for both rural and urban veterans. Given the widespread and persistent nature of low-value ICS prescribing, health system leaders should consider system-wide approaches to address this low-value prescribing practice.