Dr. Til Stürmer, Nancy A. Dreyer Distinguished Professor and chair of epidemiology at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health, is co-author of a paper recently awarded an honorable mention for the Ronald D. Mann Best Paper Award for articles published in 2017 in the journal Pharmicoepidemiology and Drug Safety, the official journal of the International Society for Pharmacoepidemiology.
The paper, “The feasibility of using multiple databases to study rare outcomes: The potential effect of long-acting beta agonists with inhaled corticosteroid therapy on asthma mortality,” was co-authored by researchers from RTI Health Solutions, Harvard Medical School, GlaxoSmithKline and HealthCore Inc., and published online Dec. 21, 2016.
The award will be presented at the 34th International Conference on Pharmacoepidemiology and Therapeutic Risk Management (ICPE) Aug. 22 – 26, in Prague.
The paper describes a feasibility study designed to determine whether researchers could conduct a full-scale study to estimate precisely the effects of a certain class of asthma inhalers on asthma mortality, a phenomenon too rare to be examined in controlled trials. Ten research partners collaborated in order to capture efficiently a very large population of individuals across their networks, while maintaining a consistent research protocol.
Dr. Stürmer said there is great interest in asthma mortality, but fortunately, very few people die of asthma. This makes it difficult to study the risk of asthma mortality associated with the use of long-acting beta antagonists (LABA) in combination with inhaled corticosteroid therapy.
“Though many opted for a randomized trial looking at severe asthma exacerbations (requiring intubation) and asthma mortality combined, such trials are unable to address the mortality issue since asthma mortality is so rare,” he said. “Using combined data from multiple health insurance plans is a promising way to gather information on rare events, but even this design did not allow us to address the original question.”
The researchers obtained 2.4 million person-years of observation from these data sources over a 10-year period, but this number was still too small to make a meaningful estimate of risk. Therefore, the researchers will not proceed forward with designing a full-scale study.
Four faculty and more than 10 students from the Gillings School’s department of epidemiology will attend the ICPE conference in late August in Prague.
[Photo: Dr. Til Stürmer]