Low-dose theophylline in addition to ICS therapy in COPD patients: A systematic review and meta-analysis

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PLoS One. 2021 May 24;16(5):e0251348. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0251348. eCollection 2021.


BACKGROUND: A synergism has been reported between theophylline and corticosteroids, wherein theophylline increases and restores the anti-inflammatory effect of inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) by enhancing histone deacetylase-2 (HDAC) activity. Several studies have explored the efficacy of low-dose theophylline plus ICS therapy on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) but the results are discrepant.

METHOD: We conducted searches in electronic database such as PubMed, Web Of Science, Cochrane Library, and Embase to find out original studies. Stata/SE 15.0 was used to perform all data analysis.

RESULT: A total of 47,556 participants from 7 studies were included in our analysis and the sample size of each study varied from 24 to 10,816. Theophylline as an add-on therapy to ICS was not associated with the reduction of COPD exacerbations (HR: 1.08, 95% CI: 0.97 to 1.19, I2 = 95.2%). Instead, the theophylline group demonstrated a higher hospitalization rate (HR: 1.12, 95% CI: 1.10 to 1.15, I2 = 20.4%) and mortality (HR: 1.19, 95% CI: 1.14 to 1.25, I2 = 0%). Further, the anti-inflammatory effect of low-dose theophylline as an adjunct to ICS on COPD was controversial. Besides, the theophylline group showed significant improvement in lung function compared with the non-theophylline group.

CONCLUSION: Based on current evidence, low-dose theophylline as add-on therapy to ICS did not reduce the exacerbation rate. Instead, the hospitalization rate and mortality increased with theophylline. Thus, we do not recommend adding low-dose theophylline to ICS therapy in COPD patients.


PMID:34029327 | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0251348

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