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Inhaler therapy for COPD

18th August 2008

A combined form of some common inhaler-based drugs used to treat asthma can also be helpful to patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, new research has shown.

Asthma1

COPD is characterised by progressive difficulty in breathing. In the United States, around 85% of people with the disease are smokers.

Now, doctors are treating patients with COPD, who previously had no treatment and could only quit smoking to help them breathe more easily, with a longer acting version of rescue inhalers used to treat asthma patients. It combines a beta-agonist drug with a corticosteroid inhaler.

While experts stress that patients still need to quit smoking, the inhaler therapy appears to be helping patients to breathe better.

Patients who received the combination treatment did best in a recent clinical trial, but those treated either with the beta-agonist Serevent or the corticosteroid Flovent did much better over three years of treatment than those who got an inactive placebo inhaler.

The study, published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, was sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline, which manufactures the inhalers Advair, Flovent, and Serevent.

Study leader Bartolome Celli of Tufts University said the research showed for the first time that pharmacologic therapy slows the decline in lung function in patients with COPD.

John Heffner, past president of the American Thoracic Society and chair of medicine at Oregon's Providence Portland Medical Center, said the findings would change COPD treatment guidelines.

One of the major problems with COPD is difficulty expelling air from the lungs, and the drug therapy targeted this problem, he said.

Examples of long-acting beta-agonists include Serevent, Foradil, and Oxis. There are many inhaled corticosteroids; the one used in the study was fluticasone, marketed as Flovent and Flixotide. Combination products that include a long-acting beta-agonist and an inhaled steroid include Advair, Seretide, and Symbicort.

 

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