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3rd December 2021
The effectiveness of allergen immunotherapy (AIT) in allergic rhinitis (AR) patients both with and without asthma has been confirmed in a 9-year retrospective analysis by researchers from the Paediatric Pulmonology and Allergy, Children’s Doctor Service, Heidelberg, Germany.
Allergies represent an abnormal immune system reaction to otherwise harmless allergens and in the UK, AR is estimated to affect 10-15% of children and 26% of adults. In addition, patients with AR can also suffer with asthma as a co-morbidity, with studies suggesting that 10% to 40% of AR patients have asthma. Furthermore, the presence of AR is associated with an incremental adverse impact on the disease-specific quality of life in patients with asthma and the level of asthma control.
Allergen immunotherapy (or desensitisation treatment) involves exposure to increasing doses of an allergen such as grass pollen, dust mite, or cat dander. AIT can be given via the subcutaneous or sublingual route, both of which have been shown to be effective treatment for patients with AR. Nevertheless, there is a recognised lack of information from studies on the effectiveness of AIT in real-world studies and over the longer term.
In order to address this gap in the evidence, the German researchers undertook the Real World effectiveness in allergy immunotherapy (REACT) study, primarily to assess the efficacy of AIT over a period of years. Using a retrospective, observational, propensity score matched cohort study, the team analysed health insurance claims from 2007 to 2017 and included AR patients with and without asthma and who had received an AIT prescription. These individuals were then propensity-score matched with AR individuals (also with or without asthma) but who had not been prescribed AIT. The primary outcome of the study was set as AR prescriptions in each follow-up year and secondary outcomes included asthma prescriptions, severe asthma exacerbations and any changes in the individual’s asthma treatment steps.
Between 2007 and 2017, 115,098 individuals had at least one AIT prescription, of whom, 46,024 with a mean age of 29.5 years (53% male) were propensity score matched. In addition, 14,614 AR patients with AR and co-existing asthma (mean age, 28.3 years, 54% male) were also matched with controls. However, over the 9 years, the study population declined, leaving 3692 individuals in the main cohort and 1142 with co-existent asthma.
When compared to control patients, AIT use was consistently associated with greater reductions in both AR and asthma prescriptions. In addition, there was a significantly greater likelihood that patients using AIT would have an asthma treatment step-down (p < 0.0001) and a reduction in severe asthma exacerbations (p < 0.05).
The authors concluded that their study had confirmed the real-world effectiveness of AIT as evidenced by sustained reductions in AR and asthma prescriptions, prevention of asthma exacerbations, and improved and sustained long-term asthma control.
Fritzching B et al. Long-term real-world effectiveness of allergy immunotherapy in patients with allergic rhinitis and asthma: Results from the REACT study, a retrospective cohort study. Lancet Regional Health Europe 2021
14th September 2021
Asthma is caused by inflammation and a narrowing of the small airways and leads to the symptoms of cough, wheeze, shortness of breath and chest tightness. According to figures from the World Health Organisation, in 2019, globally, an estimated 262 million people had asthma and the condition resulted in 461,000 deaths. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is the third leading cause of death and in 2019 led to 3.23 million lives lost. Inhaled medication is the most common medical intervention used to control the symptoms of both asthma and COPD and effective management of both relies upon patients having the correct inhaler technique. However, in a 2016 systematic review, it was found that the prevalence of a correct technique was only 31%. Furthermore, in a 2018 review of inhaler errors in both asthma and COPD, found an association between inhaler errors and worse health outcomes, highlighting the importance of having some form of inhaler technique service. In fact, studies have shown that an inhaler technique service to asthmatic patients improved both inhaler technique scores and disease control.
Exacerbations of both asthma and COPD can result in hospitalisation and a team from the Department of Medicines Management and Pharmacy Services, Leeds Teaching Hospital, Leeds, UK, examined the impact of an inhaler technique service on respiratory wards. Included patients were those admitted to hospital with an exacerbation of either asthma or COPD at the teaching hospital in Leeds and the service was provided by pharmacy support workers. Using an inhaler standards and competency document, the staff scored inhaler technique as optimal, satisfactory or unsatisfactory. Patients whose technique was deemed unsatisfactory or satisfactory received training from the pharmacy staff and where necessary, recommended to prescribers that an inhaler device should be changed. The outcomes of interest were the rate of moderate-to-severe exacerbations of asthma and COPD and hospital admissions due to such exacerbations, in the six months prior to and after receipt of inhaler technique training.
The inhaler technique service was provided to 266 patients with a mean age of 60.5 years (53% female), of whom 28% had asthma. Each patient was prescribed a mean of 2.3 inhalers and a total of 616 inhaler technique assessments were undertaken during the study period. Inhaler technique at baseline was deemed optimal in 28.6%, satisfactory in 49.4% and unsatisfactory for 22.1%. After training, the proportion of patients whose technique was deemed optimal increased to 91.5%. These improvements were achieved from a change of inhaler device (21.8%), optimising therapy without a change of device (34.9%) with the remainder due to training with the same device.
Six-month exacerbation and hospital admission data were available for 164 (62%) of all patients. Following the inhaler technique service and compared to pre-service levels, there was an overall and significant, 37% reduction in the mean number of exacerbations over a 6-month period (risk ratio, RR = 0.63, p < 0.05). This reduction occurred for both asthma (RR = 0.58, p < 0.05) and COPD (RR = 0.66, p < 0.05). Similarly, the overall rate of hospital admissions was also significantly reduced (RR = 0.56, p < 0.05) and again this occurred for both conditions. In addition, the inhaler technique service reduced the average length of hospital stay and cost of hospital admission for disease exacerbations.
The authors concluded by recommending that a ward-based inhaler technique service should be a core component of the care of patients with asthma and COPD.
Capstick TGD et al. Ward based inhaler technique service reduces exacerbations of asthma and COPD. Resp Med 2021