Toggle Main Menu Toggle Search

Open Access padlockePrints

Use of low-dose oral theophylline as an adjunct to inhaled corticosteroids in preventing exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: study protocol for a randomised controlled trial

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Graham Burns, Professor Anthony De SoyzaORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Background: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is associated with high morbidity, mortality, and health-care costs. An incomplete response to the anti-inflammatory effects of inhaled corticosteroids is present in COPD. Preclinical work indicates that 'low dose' theophylline improves steroid responsiveness. The Theophylline With Inhaled Corticosteroids (TWICS) trial investigates whether the addition of 'low dose' theophylline to inhaled corticosteroids has clinical and cost-effective benefits in COPD.Method/Design: TWICS is a randomised double-blind placebo-controlled trial conducted in primary and secondary care sites in the UK. The inclusion criteria are the following: an established predominant respiratory diagnosis of COPD (post-bronchodilator forced expiratory volume in first second/forced vital capacity [FEV1/FVC] of less than 0.7), age of at least 40 years, smoking history of at least 10 pack-years, current inhaled corticosteroid use, and history of at least two exacerbations requiring treatment with antibiotics or oral corticosteroids in the previous year. A computerised randomisation system will stratify 1424 participants by region and recruitment setting (primary and secondary) and then randomly assign with equal probability to intervention or control arms. Participants will receive either 'low dose' theophylline (Uniphyllin MR 200 mg tablets) or placebo for 52 weeks. Dosing is based on pharmacokinetic modelling to achieve a steady-state serum theophylline of 1-5 mg/l. A dose of theophylline MR 200 mg once daily (or placebo once daily) will be taken by participants who do not smoke or participants who smoke but have an ideal body weight (IBW) of not more than 60 kg. A dose of theophylline MR 200 mg twice daily (or placebo twice daily) will be taken by participants who smoke and have an IBW of more than 60 kg. Participants will be reviewed at recruitment and after 6 and 12 months. The primary outcome is the total number of participant-reported COPD exacerbations requiring oral corticosteroids or antibiotics during the 52-week treatment period.Discussion: The demonstration that 'low dose' theophylline increases the efficacy of inhaled corticosteroids in COPD by reducing the incidence of exacerbations is relevant not only to patients and clinicians but also to health-care providers, both in the UK and globally.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Devereux G, Cotton S, Barnes P, Briggs A, Burns G, Chaudhuri R, Chrystyn H, Davies L, De Soyza A, Fielding S, Gompertz S, Haughney J, Lee AJ, McCormack K, McPherson G, Morice A, Norrie J, Sullivan A, Wilson A, Price D

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Trials

Year: 2015

Volume: 16

Print publication date: 01/01/2015

Online publication date: 10/06/2015

Acceptance date: 27/05/2015

Date deposited: 21/08/2015

ISSN (electronic): 1745-6215

Publisher: BioMed Central Ltd.


DOI: 10.1186/s13063-015-0782-2


Altmetrics provided by Altmetric


Funder referenceFunder name
11/58/15National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment Programme