Last updated on September 2018

Steroid Withdrawal Intervention in Fife and Tayside


Brief description of study

The SWIFT trial is a cluster randomised trial to determine if a patient identification, feedback and inhaled corticosteroid (ICS) withdrawal intervention in primary care can result in more appropriate inhaled corticosteroid use without increasing the frequency of exacerbations. Practices in Tayside and Fife will be randomised at practice level to an intervention or control. The intervention will consist of electronic review of patients Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) data and prescribing history, followed by implementation of a medication change involving withdrawal of ICS and introduction of a Long acting beta adrenergic agonist (LABA) and Long acting muscarinic antagonist (LAMA) for patients without an indication for ongoing ICS treatment. Patients in control practices will not receive the intervention, but practices will be provided with local guidelines and formulary and encouraged to prescribe appropriately. Patients in the control practices may be switched to guideline compliant medications. Our hypothesis is that removal of non-evidence barriers to appropriate prescribing will result in in high rates of ICS withdrawal and that the intervention will be safe, as evidenced by no increase in the frequency of exacerbations over 12 months of follow-up.

Detailed Study Description

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the third leading cause of death worldwide and a major cause of morbidity in the UK. Inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) are frequently prescribed to patients with COPD and these medications represent a major burden on the National Health Service in terms of drug costs. They are not without side effects, and pneumonia in particularly has been highlighted as a common adverse event in COPD patients receiving ICS.

In the UK, inhaled corticosteroids are indicated for patients with severe or very severe COPD (Forced expiratory volume in 1 second <50% predicted) who experience frequent exacerbations. International guidelines and strategies such as those from Global Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD), also suggest inhaled corticosteroids should be reserved for patients with frequent exacerbations despite appropriate treatment with inhaled bronchodilators such as combined long acting beta-agonists and long acting muscarinic antagonists (LABA/LAMA combinations). Despite this guidance, use of inhaled corticosteroids in patients with milder COPD and without a history of exacerbations is common. Randomised controlled trials suggest that inhaled corticosteroids can be withdrawn from COPD patients with minimal adverse effects. Attempts to reduce inappropriate ICS prescribing have been largely unsuccessful in real-life, however, because of "non-evidence barriers". These include a lack of expertise in general practice to identify patients suitable for ICS withdrawal, fear of adrenal insufficiency, concern about missing a diagnosis of asthma and time. A high proportion of COPD care in the United Kingdom is delivered by specialist practice nurses, who may not be empowered to withdraw ICS in the absence of specific guidance or protocols.

The SWIFT trial is a cluster randomised trial to determine if a patient identification, feedback and ICS withdrawal intervention in primary care can result in more appropriate inhaled corticosteroid use without increasing the frequency of exacerbations. Practices in Tayside and Fife will be randomised at practice level to an intervention or control. The intervention will consist of electronic review of patients COPD data and prescribing history, followed by implementation of a medication change involving withdrawal of ICS and introduction of a LABA/LAMA for patients without an indication for ongoing ICS treatment. Patients in control practices will not receive the intervention, but practices will be provided with local guidelines and formulary and encouraged to prescribe appropriately. Patients in the control practices may be switched to guideline compliant medications (which may include the withdrawal of inhaled corticosteroids).

Our hypothesis is that the above "non-evidence barriers" will result in an ongoing high inappropriate use of ICS in control practices while an intervention that overcomes these will result in high rates of ICS withdrawal and that the intervention will be safe, as evidenced by no increase in the frequency of exacerbations over 12 months of follow-up.

This study will make an important contribution to understanding the role of inhaled corticosteroids in COPD. If successful, the intervention could be safely applied throughout the NHS to reduce inappropriate medication use, reduce patient side effects and healthcare costs.

Clinical Study Identifier: NCT03489746

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NHS Tayside

Dundee, United Kingdom
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