(Ex-)smoking asthma patients in general and specialized Belgian practice.

Respir Med. 2011 Mar 15 Decramer M, Louis R, Joos G, De Vuyst P, Mast B, Mehuys A; On behalf of the Pulmonary Advisory Board. Department of Pneumology, University Hospital Leuven, Herestraat 49, 3000 Leuven, Belgium.

INTRODUCTION: Smokers are often excluded from asthma studies. In the present study, data are presented on the prevalence, characteristics and management approach of this patient population in the Belgian practice both at the level of general practitioners (GPs) and specialists.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: One hundred and nineteen smoking, non-smoking and ex-smoking patients (25-65 yrs) with asthma, COPD or both, were recruited by 33 GPs and 33 specialists. Data were obtained retrospectively from medical records. However, only a small number of files were complete.

RESULTS: The majority of COPD patients were (ex-)smokers: 94% in the specialist group, 78% in the GP group. Cardiovascular comorbidity appeared in both groups in the same frequency order: COPD>(ex-)smoking patients with asthma (AS)>non-smoking patients with asthma (ANS), with a significant difference between AS and ANS in the specialist population. Chronic cough during more than 3 months in two consecutive years was reported in 97% of COPD patients, in 71% of the AS patients and in only 25% of the ANS patients. The type of cough differed between AS and ANS in the GP group, with a higher prevalence of productive cough in the former. Treatment patterns observed were as expected according to diagnosis except for a disproportionate use of Tiotropium in AS in the GP group.

CONCLUSION: AS were somewhere in between COPD patients and ANS for a large number of the characteristics studied, suggesting that they are an intermediate phenotype between COPD and asthma.

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