HealthDay News — A combination drug therapy of long-acting beta agonists (LABAs) and inhaled corticosteroids appears to be the best treatment for older adults with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), especially those with asthma, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“COPD, a manageable respiratory condition, is the third leading cause of death worldwide,” wrote Andrea Gershon, MD, of the Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Toronto, and colleagues.

“Knowing which prescription medications are the most effective in improving health outcomes for people with COPD is essential to maximizing health outcomes.”

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To estimate the long-term benefits of combination LABAs and inhaled corticosteroids compared with LABAs alone, the investigators conducted a population-based, longitudinal cohort study from 2003 to 2011, including 8,712 patients newly placed on the combination therapy of LABAs and inhaled corticosteroids and 3,160 new users of LABAs alone.

About 37.3% of patients died while using LABAs alone, compared with 36.4% of patients using combination therapy, reported the scientists. Similar results occurred for hospitalizations caused by COPD. Overall, the use of combination therapy reduced risk of death or hospitalization by 3.7% compared with LABAs alone.

The greatest difference was among COPD patients who had also been diagnosed with asthma. Overall, those on combination therapy had a 6.5% reduced risk of either death or hospitalization compared with those taking a single drug. The combination therapy appeared to be less effective for people using inhaled long-acting anticholinergic medication. Patients who received the combination therapy and had never taken a long-acting anticholinergic had an 8.4% reduced risk of death or hospitalization.


  1. Gershon, A et al. JAMA. 2014; doi: 10.1001/jama.2014.11432