Is Salmeterol/Fluticasone Propionate Equivalent to Tiotropium Bromide in the Treatment of COPD?

By Gillissen, Adrian

To the Editor: I read with interest the article by Dr. Wedzicha and colleagues (1) wherein the authors compared clinical efficacy of a 104-week treatment with salmeterol/fluticasone propionate fixed combination (SFC) with a treatment with tiotropium bromide in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). However, a few important aspects regarding the severity of COPD in the recruited patients and the interpretation of the results merit further attention.

First, the authors included COPD patients with a postbronchodilator FEV^sub 1^

Finally, the authors rightfully make a very careful statement about the reduction in mortality in the SFC group compared with tiotropium bromide, since mortality was not a prespecified efficacy endpoint. Therefore, no measures were taken to confirm primary causes of death by an independent clinical endpoint committee (1). It is, however, encouraging to recognize that both treatment regimens resulted in an all-cause mortality which was considerably lower (3-6% in 2 yr) than that reported across all groups of the TORCH trial (12.6-15.2% in 3 yr) (3). This is particularly interesting, since the patient population in the INSPIRE study had more severe COPD than that in TORCH (1, 3)

In summary, the real “unexpected finding” of this study is that SFC and tiotropium were equally efficacious with respect to the primary endpoint of exacerbations. This result is even more interesting in a patient population where guidelines recommend that long-acting bronchodilation should be complemented with an inhaled corticosteroid.

Conflict of Interest Statement: A.G. has received fees for advisory board activities from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) ($10,500 in 2005, $8,500 in 2006, $9,100 in 2007) and Boehringer Ingelheim ($3,000 in 2005, $3,000 in 2006, $2,700 in 2007); he has received lecture fees from GSK ($7,500 in 2005, $8,000 in 2006, $9,200 in 2007), Boehringer Ingelheim ($2,000 in 2005, $3,500 in 2006, $330 in 2007), and Pfizer ($500 in 2006, $750 in 2007); he has received industry-sponsored grants from Boehringer Ingelheim ($97,000 in 2006 and 2007).


1. Wedzicha JA, Calverley PMA, Seemungal TA, Hagan G, Ansari Z, Stockley RA; for the INSPIRE Investigators. The prevention of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease exacerbations by salmeterol/ fluticasone propionate or tiotropium bromide. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2008;177:19-26.

2. Seemungal T, Stockley R, Calverley P, Hagan G, Wedzicha JA. Investigating new standards for prophylaxis in reduction of exacerbations: the INSPIRE study methodology. COPD 2007;4:177-183.

3. Calverley PMA, Anderson JA, Celli B, Ferguson GT, Jenkins C, Jones PW, Yates JC, Vestbo J; for the TORCH Investigators. Salmeterol and fluticasone propionate and survival in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. N Engl J Med 2007;356:775-789.


St. George Medical Center


Leipzig, Germany

Copyright American Thoracic Society Jul 1, 2008

(c) 2008 American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.

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