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Long-Term Use of Antibiotic May Help Those With COPD
Date:5/21/2013

TUESDAY, May 21 (HealthDay News) -- Thousands of Americans, many of them smokers or ex-smokers, suffer from the lung condition known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Now a new study finds that patients placed on the common antibiotic azithromycin may be able to cut down on hospitalizations due to flare-ups of the disease.

"Given that exacerbations of COPD can be life-threatening, prevention of such events is critical," said Victoria Richards, assistant professor of medical science at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn. Use of the antibiotic might also cut down on the need for doctor's office visits and boost patients' quality of life, said Richards, who was not involved in the study.

The research was presented Tuesday at the annual meeting of the American Thoracic Society in Philadelphia.

COPD is a progressive disease involving bronchitis and emphysema, often tied to smoking, that makes it hard for patients to breathe.

In the new study, researchers compared how patients fared on a 12-month regimen of the drug versus patients who were given a dummy medication.

"COPD patients who have been hospitalized for a respiratory event are at particularly high risk for re-hospitalization," study lead author Dr. Fernando Martinez said in a meeting news release.

"We wanted to examine whether chronic azithromycin therapy might provide a benefit in these patients," said Martinez, who is director of pulmonary diagnostic services at the University of Michigan Health System, in Ann Arbor.

To assess treatment effectiveness, the researchers looked at data from a prior study conducted by the COPD Clinical Research Network.

Patients in that study had either suffered a so-called "acute exacerbation" of COPD in the year leading up to the study or were using supplemental oxygen at the beginning of the study.

For one year the patients randomly were assigned to receive either a daily dose of
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