Pills work as well for hospitalized patients and can reduce costs, study finds
TUESDAY, June 15 (HealthDay News) -- Low-dose steroid pills seem to work as well as high doses of injected steroids for patients hospitalized with severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), researchers report.
Yet, some 90 percent of these COPD patients are given the higher doses, which is contrary to current prescribing guidelines, claims the study appearing in the June 16 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
"We really think that doctors should be following hospital guidelines and treating patients with oral steroids, at least for those who are able to take oral steroids," said Dr. Richard Mularski, author of an accompanying editorial and a pulmonologist with Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research.
Mularski added that he was surprised that this many patients were receiving IV steroids.
Patients in crisis with COPD are routinely treated with corticosteroids, bronchodilators and antibiotics.
Although it's clear that steroids are effective in treating COPD exacerbations, it's less clear which dose is preferable, stated the study authors.
The Massachusetts-based researchers looked at records on almost 80,000 patients admitted with severe symptoms of COPD to 414 U.S. hospitals in 2006 and 2007. All had been given steroids within the first two days of their stay.
The study did not include individuals who needed care in the intensive care unit. "These are patients that were sick enough to go into the hospital, but not sick enough to go into the ICU," said Dr. Norman Edelman, chief medical officer of the American Lung Association.
Ninety-two percent of patients in the study were treated with higher dose, intravenous steroids, while only 8 percent were given the drugs orally.
And both groups had similar outcomes, with 1.4 percent of those o
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