Background: Asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) affect millions of people worldwide. While medication can control and improve disease symptoms, incorrect use of medication is a common problem. The eHealth intervention SARA (Service Apothecary Respiratory Advice) aims to improve participants’ correct use of inhalation medication by providing information and as-needed tailored follow-up support by a pharmacist.

Objective: The primary aim of this study was to investigate the effect of SARA on exacerbation rates in participants with asthma and COPD. Secondary aims were to investigate its effects in terms of adherence to maintenance medication and antimycotic treatment.

Methods: In this nonrandomized pre-post study, medication dispensing data from 382 Dutch community pharmacies were included. Exacerbation rates were assessed with dispensed short-course oral corticosteroids. Medication adherence between new and chronic users was assessed by calculating the proportion of days covered from dispensed inhalation maintenance medication. Antimycotic treatment was investigated from dispensed oral antimycotics in participants who were also dispensed inhaled corticosteroids (ICS). Outcomes were assessed 1 year before and 1 year after implementation of SARA and were compared between SARA participants and control participants. More specifically, for exacerbation rates and medication adherence, a difference score was calculated (ie, 1 year after SARA minus 1 year before SARA) and was subsequently compared between the study groups with independent-samples t tests. For antimycotics, the relative number of participants who were dispensed antimycotics was calculated and subsequently analyzed with a mixed-effects logistic regression.

Results: The study population comprised 9452 participants, of whom 2400 (25.39%) were SARA participants. The mean age of the population was 60.8 (15.0) years, and approximately two-thirds (n=5677, 60.06%) were female. The results showed an increase in mean exacerbation rates over time for both study groups (SARA: 0.05; control: 0.15). However, this increase in exacerbation rates was significantly lower for SARA participants (t9450=3.10, 95% CI 0.04-0.16; P=.002; Cohen d=0.06). Chronic users of inhalation medication in both study groups showed an increase in mean medication adherence over time (SARA: 6.73; control: 4.48); however, this increase was significantly higher for SARA participants (t5886=–2.74, 95% CI –3.86 to –0.84; P=.01; Cohen d=–0.07). Among new users of inhalation medication, results showed no significant difference in medication adherence between SARA and control participants in the year after implementation of SARA (t1434=–1.85, 95% CI –5.60 to 0.16; P=.06; Cohen d=–0.10). Among ICS users, no significant differences between the study groups were found over time in terms of the proportion of participants who were dispensed antimycotics (t5654=0.29, 95% CI –0.40 to 0.54; P=.76; Cohen d=0).

Conclusions: This study provides preliminary evidence that the SARA eHealth intervention might have the potential to decrease exacerbation rates and improve medication adherence among patients with asthma and COPD.

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