Comparative safety and costs of stepping down asthma medications in patients with controlled asthma

Matthew A. Rank, Juliette T. Liesinger, Megan E. Branda, Michael R. Gionfriddo, Michael Schatz, Robert S. Zeiger, Nilay D. Shah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Background Limited data exist regarding outcomes after stepping down asthma medication. Objective We sought to compare the safety and costs of stepping down asthma controller medications with maintaining current treatment levels in patients with controlled asthma. Methods Patients with persistent asthma were identified from the US Medical Expenditure Panel Survey years 2000-2010. Each patient had Medical Expenditure Panel Survey data for 2 years, and measurement was divided into 5 periods of 4 to 5 months each. Eligibility for stepping down asthma controller medications included no hospitalizations or emergency department visits for asthma in periods 1 to 3 and no systemic corticosteroid and 3 or less rescue inhalers dispensed in periods 2 and 3. Steps were defined by type and dose of chronic asthma medication based on current guidelines when comparing period 4 with period 3. The primary outcome of complete asthma control in period 5 was defined as no asthma hospitalizations, emergency department visits, and dispensed systemic corticosteroids and 2 or fewer dispensed rescue inhalers. Multivariable analyses were conducted to assess safety and costs after step down compared with those who maintained the treatment level. Results Overall, 29.9% of patients meeting the inclusion criteria (n = 4235) were eligible for step down; 89.4% (95% CI, 86.4% to 92.4%) of those who stepped down had preserved asthma control compared with 83.5% (95% CI, 79.9% to 87.0%) of those who were similarly eligible for step down but maintained their treatment level. The average monthly asthma-related cost savings was $34.02/mo (95% CI, $5.42/mo to $61.24/mo) with step down compared with maintenance of the treatment level. Conclusion Stepping down asthma medications in those whose symptoms were controlled led to similar clinical outcomes at reduced cost compared with those who maintained their current treatment level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1373-1379.e3
JournalJournal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2016


  • Asthma
  • anti-inflammatory agents
  • antiasthma agents
  • de-escalate
  • health services
  • reduce
  • step down
  • taper
  • withdraw

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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