Post-market Review of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) Medicines

Page last updated: 30 January 2018


Every effort has been made to ensure web accessibility to the Post-market Review of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease medicines, however complete web accessibility cannot be guaranteed.  If you have trouble accessing information within the report and you would like a copy to be provided to you, please direct all queries via email to PBS postmarket.


COPD is characterised by a chronic inflammation of the lung tissue, and obstruction of the airways that cannot be fully reversed by medication.  Air flow obstruction leads to symptoms such as wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, coughing, and production of excess mucus. Symptoms can be exacerbated by irritants such as infection or exposure to noxious particles or gases, most commonly cigarette smoke.

A number of medicines are available to reduce the symptoms of COPD, and to reduce the frequency and severity of exacerbations.  The primary medicines are bronchodilators (beta2-agonists, anti-cholinergics/muscarinic agonists, phosphodiesterase inhibitors and methylxanthines) to reduce airway obstructions, and inhaled corticosteroids to reduce inflammation.

In October 2013, the Drug Utilisation Sub-Committee (DUSC) of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) reviewed the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) utilisation of indacaterol and budesonide/efomoterol for COPD.  The review of indacaterol utilisation identified co-administration of multiple long-acting beta agonist (LABA) products in some patients, which was considered a significant quality use of medicines issue.

The review of budesonide/eformoterol found a trend towards higher initiations in winter which the DUSC considered may indicate use for the treatment of respiratory tract infections or cough, a quality use of medicines issue. The relevant DUSC meeting outcome statement is available below:

 In July 2014, when considering the submissions for indacaterol/glycopyrronium and umeclidinium/vilanterol the PBAC noted that while forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1) has previously been accepted as a surrogate outcome in the treatment of COPD, the PBAC were concerned that this may not translate into clinically meaningful benefits to patients. These submissions did not provide evidence of reductions in exacerbations or hospitalisations, outcomes that the PBAC considered could also be used to demonstrate effectiveness. The PBAC further noted concerns by the DUSC that the introduction of these fixed dose combinations may lead to patients being initiated on the combination product earlier than clinically appropriate and without adequate titration of the individual components. Further information is available in the PBAC Public Summary Documents for July 2014 for these medicines.

In August 2015, the PBAC recommended a Post-market Review of COPD Medicines, noting that a number of new combinations, including long-acting muscarinic antagonist (LAMA)/LABA and LABA/inhaled corticosteroid (ICS) combinations, have been listed recently on the PBS and that there was concern about use of multiple products.

The purpose of the Post-market Review of COPD Medicines is to review the utilisation, safety, efficacy and cost-effectiveness of PBS listed COPD medicines, and to address quality use of medicines concerns associated with the apparent use of multiple products.  This Review was approved by the Minister for Health on 28 September 2015.

The Review is being carried out under the Australian Government’s post-market monitoring programme, which aims to ensure the continued safe, cost-effective and quality use of medicines listed on the PBS.

Medicines to be included in the COPD Review are:

  • Medicines listed on the PBS for the treatment of COPD only:
    • Aclidinium
    • Glycopyrronium
    • Indacaterol
    • Indacaterol + Glycopyrronium
    • Tiotropium
    • Umeclidinium
    • Umeclidinium + Vilanterol
  • Medicines listed on the PBS for the treatment of COPD and asthma:
    • Beclomethasone
    • Budesonide
    • Budesonide + Eformoterol
    • Ciclesonide
    • Eformoterol
    • Fluticasone
    • Fluticasone + Eformoterol
    • Fluticasone + Salmeterol
    • Fluticasone + Vilanterol
    • Ipratropium
    • Prednisone
    • Salmeterol
    • Salbutamol
    • Terbutaline
    • Theophylline.

Reference Group Membership

Name Nominated By Capacity of Appointment Expertise
Emeritus Professor Michael Hensley ESC Chair Respiratory Medicine Specialist
Professor Debra Rowett DUSC Technical Expert Drug Utilisation, Pharmacy
Miss Toni Riley Pharmacy Guild Organisational Representative Pharmacy
Dr Nikki McCaffrey Australian Health Economics Society Technical Expert Health Economics
Ms Mary Roberts Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand Technical Expert Respiratory Clinical Nursing
Dr Lata Jayaram Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand Technical Expert Respiratory Physician
Miss Kirsten Phillips Lung Foundation Organisational Representative Respiratory Medicines Industry
Ms Erica Tong Society of Hospital Pharmacists Technical Expert Hospital Pharmacy
Ms Elizabeth de Somer Medicines Australia Organisational Representative Medicines Industry
Ms Belinda Wood Generic and Biosimilar Medicines Association Organisational Representative Industry Medicines
Dr Margaret Wilson Therapeutic Goods Administration Organisational Representative Drug Safety
Dr Penny Abbott Royal Australian College of General Practitioners Organisational Representative General Practitioner
Ms Debra Kay Consumers' Health Forum Consumer Advocate Consumers
Ms Aine Heaney NPS MedicineWise Organisational Representative Quality use of Medicines

Consultation on Draft Terms of Reference (closed)

Public consultation on the draft Review Terms of Reference was open between 16 October and 13 November 2015.  To view submissions please go to the Public Consultation page.

Final Terms of Reference

The PBAC considered the draft Review Terms of Reference and comments from stakeholders at the December 2015 PBAC meeting. Following the December 2015 PBAC meeting the Minister for Health approved the final Terms of Reference for the Review:

  1. Compare the prescribing restrictions for PBS-listed COPD medicines for consistency with the current clinical guidelines.
  2. Review the clinical outcomes that are most important or clinically relevant to people with COPD and the extent to which these outcomes are included in the evidence previously provided to PBAC on the cost-effectiveness of these medicines.
  3. Review the evidence on the efficacy and safety of monotherapy and combinations of LABA/LAMA, ICS/LABA and LAMA + ICS/LABA (separate items or fixed dose combinations) for treatment of COPD that PBAC has not previously considered.
  4. Review the published literature on the safety of prolonged ICS use in monotherapy and in combination with LABA and/or LAMA for COPD that PBAC has not previously considered.
  5. Analyse the current utilisation of PBS listed COPD medicines to identify the extent of co-prescribing and use that is inconsistent with clinical guidelines and/or PBS restrictions.
  6. Evaluate if the current utilisation of multiple therapies and the latest evidence relating to safety and efficacy justifies a review of cost-effectiveness for some or all medicines indicated for COPD.

Public Submissions addressing the final Terms of Reference (closed)

Public consultation addressing the final Review Terms of Reference was open between 4 March and 22 April 2016. To view submissions please go to the Public Consultation page.

Stakeholder Forum

A Stakeholder Forum was held in Sydney on 21 March 2017. Pharmaceutical sponsors of COPD medicines listed on the PBS, representatives of peak bodies, consumer organisations, and individuals who provided a submission to the Review were invited to participate. The Stakeholder Forum Summary is provided below:

Public Consultation on Draft Report (closed)

The draft COPD Review Report was available for public comment until 13 June 2017.

PBAC Consideration of Final Report

The Report, including PBAC sub-committee advice and stakeholder comments, was provided to the PBAC for consideration in August 2017. The PBAC Minutes and Final Report for this item are now available. Parts of the PBAC Minutes have been redacted due to ‘commercial-in-confidence’ information.

PBAC Minutes for the Post-market Review of COPD medicines

Post-market Review of COPD medicines Final Report to PBAC

COPD Review Report
Part Number Title Word version PDF version
1 Executive Summary Part 1 (Word 284KB) Part 1 (PDF 423KB)
2 Background and ToR 1 Part 2 (Word 308KB) Part 2 (PDF 1MB)
3 ToR 2 Part 3 (Word 138KB) Part 3 (PDF 424KB)
4 ToR 3 Part 4 (Word 858KB) Part 4 (PDF 1.5MB)
5 ToR 4 Part 5 (Word 2.6MB) Part 5 (PDF 3MB)
6 ToR 5 Part 6 (Word 749KB) Part 6 (PDF 1.4MB)
7 ToR 6 Part 7 (Word 75KB) Part 7 (PDF 192KB)

The appendices for the Report are available on request to the COPD Review Secretariat.

Plain Language Summary

A brief plain language summary (PDF 85KB) - (Word 20KB) on each of the key Terms of Reference findings from the Final Report has been created.

Review Process

This Review followed the Post-market Review Framework available on the Reviews website. This process includes public consultation on the draft Terms of Reference, an opportunity to provide submissions to the Review, and an opportunity to comment on the draft Review Report.

Further Information

Further information on post-market reviews is available on the Reviews website.

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