Patients With Moderate COPD Also Benefit From Triple Therapy

Neil Osterweil

May 25, 2021

The benefits of a triple fixed-dose inhaled corticosteroid, long-acting muscarinic antagonist, and long-acting beta2 agonist combination extend to patients with moderate as well as severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

That's according to investigators in the ETHOS (Efficacy and Safety of Triple Therapy in Obstructive Lung Disease) trial (NCT02465567).

In a subanalysis of data on patients with moderate COPD who were enrolled in the comparison trial, the single-inhaler combination of the inhaled corticosteroid (ICS) budesonide, the long-acting muscarinic antagonist (LAMA) glycopyrrolate, and the long-acting beta2 agonist (LABA) formoterol fumarate (BGF) showed benefits in terms of COPD exacerbations, lung function, symptoms, and quality-of-life compared with either of two dual therapy combinations (glycopyrrolate or budesonide with formoterol [GFF/BFF]).

"A moderate benefit:risk ratio was demonstrated in patients with moderate COPD, consistent with the results of the overall ETHOS population, indicating the results of the ETHOS study were not driven by patients with severe or very severe COPD," wrote Gary T. Ferguson, MD, from the Pulmonary Research Institute of Southeast Michigan in Farmington Hills, and colleagues. Their poster was presented during the American Thoracic Society's virtual international conference (Abstract A2244).

As reported at ATS 2020, in the overall ETHOS population of 8,509 patients with moderate to very severe COPD the annual rate of moderate or severe COPD exacerbations was 1.08 and 1.07 for the triple combinations with 320-mcg and 160-mcg doses of budesonide, respectively, compared with 1.42 for glycopyrrolate-formoterol, and 1.24 for budesonide-formoterol.

Both triple combinations were significantly superior to the dual therapies for controlling exacerbations, Klaus F. Rabe, MD, PhD, of LungenClinic Grosshansdorf and Christian-Albrechts University Kiel (Germany), and colleagues found.

Subanalysis Details

At the 2021 iteration of ATS, ETHOS investigator Ferguson and colleagues reported results for 613 patients with moderate COPD assigned to BGF 320 mcg, 604 assigned to BGF 160 mcg, 596 assigned to GFF, and 614 randomized to BFF.

Baseline demographic and clinical characteristics were similar among the groups, including age, sex, smoking status, mean COPD Assessment Test (CAT) score, mean blood eosinophil count, ICS use at screening, exacerbations in the previous year, mean postbronchodilator forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1) percentage of predicted, and mean postbronchodilator percentage reversibility.

A modified intention-to-treat (ITT) analysis showed that the rate of moderate or severe exacerbations over 52 weeks with BGF 320 mcg was 21% lower than with GFF (P = .0123), but only 4% lower than with BFF, a difference that was not statistically significant.

The BGF 160-mg dose was associated with a 30% reduction in exacerbations vs GFF (P = .0002), and with a nonsignificant reduction of 15% compared with BFF.

­There was a numerical but not statistically significant improvement from baseline at week 24 in morning pre-dose trough FEV1 between the BGF 320-mcg dose and GFF (difference 47 mL), and a significant improvement (90 mL) with BGF compared with BFF (P = .0006). The BGF 160-mcg dose was associated with a larger improvement (89 mL) compared with BFF (P = .0004) but not with GFF.

The FEV1 area under the curve (AUC) of receiver operating characteristics from 0 to 4 hours was superior with BGF at both doses compared with both GFF and BFF.

Patients who used BGF 320 mcg also used significantly less rescue medication over 24 weeks compared with patients who used GFF (P < .0001) or BFF (P = .0001). There were no significant differences in rescue medication use between the BGF 160-mg dose and either of the dual therapy combinations.

Time to clinically important deterioration — defined as a greater than ­100 mL decrease in trough FEV1, or a ­4 units increase in St. George's Respiratory Questionnaire total score, or a treatment-emergent moderate/severe COPD exacerbation occurring up to week 52 — was significantly longer with the 320-mcg but not 160-mcg BGF dose compared with GFF (P = .0295) or BFF (P = .0172).


Treatment-emergent adverse events (TEAEs) occurred in about two-thirds of patients in each trial arm, although TEAEs related to study treatment were more common with the two triple-therapy combinations and with BFF than with GFF.

TEAEs leading to study discontinuation occurred in 5.5% of patients on BGF 320 mcg, 4% on BGF 160 mcg, 4.5% on GFF, and 3.2% on BFF.

Confirmed major adverse cardiovascular events occurred in 0.8% and 1.5% in the BGF 320- and 160-mcg groups, respectively, in 1.8% of patients in the GFF arm, and 1.5% in the BFF arm.

Confirmed pneumonia was seen in 2.6% of patients in each BGF arm, 2.2% in the GFF arm, and 3.6% in the BFF arm.

Selected Population

In a comment, David Mannino, MD, medical director of the COPD Foundation, who was not involved in the study, noted that the enrollment criteria for ETHOS tended to skew the population toward patients with severe disease.

In the trial, all patients were receiving at least two inhaled maintenance therapies at the time of screening, and had a postbronchodilator ratio of FEV1 to forced vital capacity of less than 0.7, with a postbronchodilator FEV1 of 25%-65% of the predicted normal value. The patients all had a smoking history of at least 10 pack-years and a documented history of at least one moderate or severe COPD exacerbation in the year before screening.

"The question was whether they would see the same results in people with more moderate impairment, and the answer in this subanalysis is 'yes.' The findings weren't identical between patients with severe and moderate disease, but there were similarities with what was seen in the overall ETHOS study," he said.

The ETHOS Trial was supported by Pearl Therapeutics. Ferguson reported grants, personal fees, and nonfinancial support from AstraZeneca during the conduct of the study; and grants, fees, and nonfinancial support from Pearl and others. Mannino reports recruitment to an advisory board for AstraZeneca.

American Thoracic Society (ATS) 2021 International Conference: Abstract A2244

This article originally appeared on, part of the Medscape Professional Network.


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