Long-acting bronchodilators increase CVD risk in certain COPD patients


Background: Long-acting inhaled bronchodilator use (LABA or LAMA) in patients with COPD is the mainstay of treatment. Prior studies have reported a possible interaction between LABA or LAMA use and increased rates of cardiovascular events; however, the results have been variable. The findings have been confounded by incomplete medical records, exclusion of patients with CVD in bronchodilator trials, and high patient drop out rates. This study aims to assess the association between LABA or LAMA use in patients with COPD and the risk of CVD.

Study design: Nested case control study.

Setting: Taiwanese national database.

Synopsis: This study included 284,200 LABA and LAMA naive patients who were aged 40 years or older and had COPD (mean age, 71.4 years); it retrieved health care claims data from 2007 through 2011 for these patients from the Taiwan National Health Insurance Research Database. During a mean follow-up of 2.0 years, 37,719 patients experienced a cardiovascular event, and 146,139 matched controls were identified. LABA or LAMA use was measured in the year preceding the cardiovascular event and stratified by duration since initiation of LABA or LAMA treatment. Logistical regression was performed to estimate the odds ratios of CVD from LABA and LAMA treatment. New LABA use was associated with a 1.50-fold (95% confidence interval, 1.35-1.67; P less than .001) increased cardiovascular risk within 30 days of initiation, and new LAMA use was associated with a 1.52 fold (95% CI, 1.28-1.80; P less than .001) increased risk. In patients with prevalent LABA or LAMA use, the risk of CVD was absent or reduced.

Key limitations included the omission of contributors to cardiovascular disease, including smoking status and alcohol consumption, in the final analysis. Also, the contribution of worsening COPD to cardiovascular events was not accounted for.

Bottom line: Initiation of inhaled LABAs or LAMAs in patients with COPD is associated with a 1.5-fold increased risk of cardiovascular disease – including emergency or inpatient care for coronary artery disease, heart failure, ischemic stroke, or arrhythmia – in the first 30 days.

Citation: Wang MT et al. Association of cardiovascular risk with inhaled long-acting bronchodilators in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. JAMA Intern Med. 2018; 178(2):229-38.

Dr. Skinner is a hospitalist at Denver Health Medical Center and an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Colorado at Denver, Aurora.

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