Antibiotics for COPD exacerbations: does drug or duration matter? A primary care database analysis

Marie Stolbrink, Laura J Bonnett, John D Blakey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: Antibiotics are routinely given to people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) presenting with lower respiratory tract infection (LRTI) symptoms in primary care. Population prescribing habits and their consequences have not been well-described.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective analysis of antibiotic prescriptions for non-pneumonic exacerbations of COPD from 2010 to 2015 using the UK primary care Optimum Patient Care Research Database. As a proxy of initial treatment failure, second antibiotic prescriptions for LRTI or all indications within 14 days were the primary and secondary outcomes, respectively. We derived a model for repeat courses using univariable and multivariable logistic regression analysis.

Results: A total of 8.4% of the 9042 incident events received further antibiotics for LRTI, 15.5% further courses for any indication. Amoxicillin and doxycycline were the most common index and second-line drugs, respectively (58.7% and 28.7%), mostly given for 7 days. Index drugs other than amoxicillin, cardiovascular disease, pneumococcal vaccination and more primary care consultations were statistically significantly associated with repeat prescriptions for LRTI (p<0.05). The ORs and 95% CIs were: OR 1.28, 95% CI 1.10 to 1.49; OR 1.37, 95% CI 1.13 to 1.66; OR 1.33, 95% CI 1.14 to 1.55 and OR 1.05, 95% CI 1.02 to 1.07, respectively. Index duration, inhaled steroid use and exacerbation frequency were not statistically significant. The derived model had an area under the curve of 0.61, 95% CI 0.59 to 0.63.

Discussion: The prescription of multiple antibiotic courses for COPD exacerbations was relatively common-one in twelve patients receiving antibiotics for LRTI had a further course within 2 weeks. The findings support the current preference for amoxicillin as index drug within the limitations of this observational study. Further clinical trials to determine best practice in this common clinical situation appear required.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere000458
Pages (from-to)e000458
JournalBMJ Open Respiratory Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2019
Externally publishedYes


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