CRP testing in acute COPD exacerbations cuts antibiotic use without compromising outcomes


Background: A previous study has shown that patients with acute COPD exacerbations had little difference in rate of clinical cure with placebo or antibiotics when CRP is less than 40 mg/L.

Dr. Hiral Choksi

Study design: Multicenter, open-label, randomized controlled trial.

Setting: 86 general medical practices in the United Kingdom from January 2015 through September 2017.

Synopsis: More than 600 patients who presented to a primary care physician with an acute COPD exacerbation were randomized to point of care CRP testing vs. usual care. Clinicians in the CRP testing group were provided with a point-of-care testing unit along with an algorithm for results. If the CRP was greater than 40 mg/L, antibiotics were thought to be beneficial; but they were urged not to prescribe antibiotics if the level was less than 20 mg/L. For levels between 20 mg/L and 40 mg/L, it was suggested that antibiotics might be beneficial if the sputum is purulent.

The primary outcomes were patient-reported use of antibiotics for an acute COPD exacerbation within 4 weeks of randomization along with measurement of COPD-related health status on the Clinical COPD Questionnaire at 2 weeks of randomization. Fewer antibiotics were prescribed in the CRP testing group over the usual care group (57% vs. 77%). The adjusted mean difference in the Clinical COPD Questionnaire total score at 2 weeks was –0.19 points, in favor of the CRP-guided group.

Bottom line: The use of point-of-care testing CRP as an adjunctive guide to antibiotic use in acute COPD exacerbations may lower the amount of antibiotic prescribing without compromising clinical outcomes.

Citation: Butler CC et al. C-reactive protein testing to guide antibiotics prescribing for COPD exacerbations. N Engl J Med. 2019 Jul 11; 381:111-120.

Dr. Choksi is a hospitalist and associate professor of internal medicine at Saint Louis University, where she is assistant dean of admissions. She is president of the SHM St. Louis Chapter.

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