"COPD is treatable," Wedzicha added. "We know outcomes can be improved."
Commenting on the study, Dr. Len Horovitz, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said that "in COPD there is a paucity of medications, and because one works to prevent exacerbations doesn't mean you eliminate your other choices."
Horovitz said COPD patients who are well controlled are taking several drugs. "I don't want anyone to take away from this study that we don't need anything but tiotropium. That's just not so," he said.
COPD, which generally consists of chronic bronchitis or emphysema, is a progressive disease that causes increasing damage to the lungs, making breathing difficult. Most COPD is caused by chronic exposure to lung irritants such as cigarette smoke, but it can also be caused by long-term exposure to other environmental toxins.
For more information on COPD, visit the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
SOURCES: Leonardo Fabbri, M.D., professor of respiratory medicine, University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, Modena, Italy; Claus Vogelmeier, M.D., division of pulmonary diseases, University Hospital Marburg, Germany; Jadwiga A. Wedzicha, M.D., professor of respiratory medicine, University College London Medical School, University College London, U.K.; Len Horovitz, M.D., pulmonary specialist, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; March 24, 2011, New England Journal of Medicine
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