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Inhaler Eased Lung Problems in 9/11 Workers
Date:10/24/2007

Firefighters who used drug early gained some symptom relief, study found

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Timely use of a month's worth of inhaler medicine may have lessened rescue workers' respiratory symptoms in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, World Trade Center attacks, according to new findings announced Wednesday.

Inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) are anti-inflammatory medicines commonly used for the treatment of asthma. No study had ever examined whether administrating ICS before the onset of symptoms could ease those symptoms or prevent the onset of respiratory problems following exposure to inhaled particulates.

The 9/11 attacks jettisoned countless tons of particulate materials into the air above New York City. Many of those who labored to rescue the survivors, collect the remains, and clean up the debris have suffered over the past six years from a host of acute and progressive respiratory problems, including sinusitis, asthmatic symptoms, and the so-called "World Trade Center cough," among other problems.

Beginning one week after 9/11, a team led by Dr. David Prezant, chief medical officer in the Office of Medical Affairs, and co-director of WTC Medical Monitoring and Treatment Programs at the New York City Fire Department, offered the ICS drug budesonide to the approximately 11,000 NYC firefighters involved in cleanup and rescue efforts at the WTC site.

Almost 3,000 firefighters agreed to participate in the trial, during which the drug was inhaled twice a day for four weeks. Only 220 stuck with it for the full study period -- not because of side effects, the authors noted, but mostly from a lack of any immediate effect.

Two years later, the researchers assessed the treatment's effectiveness in relieving respiratory symptoms and improving lung function in those individuals who completed the treatment, relative to untreated control subjects.

Survey results indic
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