The Utility of Fractional Exhaled Nitric Oxide Suppression in the Identification of Nonadherence in Difficult Asthma

Diarmuid M McNicholl, Michael Stevenson, Lorcan P McGarvey, Liam G Heaney

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Rationale: Nonadherence to inhaled corticosteroid therapy (ICS) is a major contributor to poor control in difficult asthma, yet it is challenging to ascertain. Objectives: Identify a test for nonadherence using fractional exhaled nitric oxide (FENO) suppression after directly observed inhaled corticosteroid (DOICS) treatment. Methods: Difficult asthma patients with an elevated FENO (>45 ppb) were recruited as adherent (ICS prescription filling >80%) or nonadherent (filling <50%). They received 7 days of DOICS (budesonide 1,600 µg) and a test for nonadherence based on changes in FENO was developed. Using this test, clinic patients were prospectively classified as adherent or nonadherent and this was then validated against prescription filling records, prednisolone assay, and concordance interview. Measurements and Main Results: After 7 days of DOICS nonadherent (n = 9) compared with adherent subjects (n = 13) had a greater reduction in FENO to 47 ± 21% versus 79 ± 26% of baseline measurement (P = 0.003), which was also evident after 5 days (P = 0.02) and a FENO test for nonadherence (area under the curve = 0.86; 95% confidence interval, 0.68-1.00) was defined. Prospective validation in 40 subjects found the test identified 13 as nonadherent; eight confirmed nonadherence during interview (three of whom had excellent prescription filling but did not take medication), five denied nonadherence, two had poor inhaler technique (unintentional nonadherence), and one also denied nonadherence to prednisolone despite nonadherent blood level. Twenty-seven participants were adherent on testing, which was confirmed in 21. Five admitted poor ICS adherence but of these, four were adherent with oral steroids and one with omalizumab. Conclusions: FENO suppression after DOICS provides an objective test to distinguish adherent from nonadherent patients with difficult asthma. Clinical trial registered with (NCT 01219036). Copyright © 2012 by the American Thoracic Society.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1102-1108
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 01 Dec 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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