A real-life comparative effectiveness study into the addition of antibiotics to the management of asthma exacerbations in primary care

Clare S. Murray, Sarah J Lucas, John Blakey, Alan Kaplan, Alberto Papi, James Paton, Wanda Phipatanakul, David Price, Oon Hoe Teoh, Mike Thomas, Steve Turner, Nikolaos G Papadopoulos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
4 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Asthma exacerbations are major contributors to asthma morbidity and mortality. They areusually managed with bronchodilators and oral corticosteroids (OCS), but clinical trial evidence suggests antibiotics could be beneficial. We aimed to assess whether treatment of asthma exacerbations withantibiotics in addition to OCS improved outcomes in larger more representative routine care populations.Method: A retrospective comparative effectiveness study into managing asthma exacerbations with OCSalone versus OCS plus antibiotics was conducted using the Optimum Patient Care Research Database. The dataset included 28,637 patients, following propensity score matching 20,024 adults and 4,184 children were analyzed.Results: Antibiotics in addition to OCS were prescribed for the treatment of asthma exacerbations in 45% of adults and 32% of children.Compared to OCS alone, OCS plus antibiotics was associated with reduced risk of having an asthma/wheeze consultation in the following 2 weeks (children HR 0.84 (95% CI 0.73-0.96), p=0.012; adults HR 0.86 (95%CI 0.81-0.91), p<0.001), but an increase in risk of a further OCS prescription for a new/ongoing exacerbation within 6 weeks in adults (HR 1.11 (95% CI 1.01-1.21), p=0.030), but not children.Penicillins, but not macrolides, were associated with a reduction in the odds of a subsequent asthma/wheeze consultation compared to OCS alone, in both adults and children.Conclusion: Antibiotics were frequently prescribed in relation to asthma exacerbations, contrary to guideline recommendations. Overall, the routine addition of antibiotics to OCS in the management of asthmaexacerbations appeared to confer little clinical benefit, especially when considering the risks of antibiotic overuse.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2003599
JournalEuropean Respiratory Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

This project was supported by the Respiratory Effectiveness Group. Data and data management support was provided in-kind by Optimum Patient Care (www.opcrd.co.uk) and Derek Skinner at OPC. Clare Murray is supported by the NIHR Manchester Biomedical Research Centre.


  • Asthma exacerbation
  • antibiotics
  • oral corticosteroids


Dive into the research topics of 'A real-life comparative effectiveness study into the addition of antibiotics to the management of asthma exacerbations in primary care'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this