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Treating COPD Early Improves Outcomes
Date:8/27/2009

New drug might slow the destructive lung condition, studies show

THURSDAY, Aug. 27 (HealthDay News) -- Although there is no cure for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), starting treatment early may slow progression of the illness and add years to the lives of sufferers, new research finds.

COPD is a progressive, destructive disease of the lungs that is usually brought on by years of smoking. Symptoms include restricted breathing, secretion of mucus, oxidative stress and airway inflammation. It is estimated that as many as 24 million Americans have COPD, and the number is rising.

Three reports published in the Aug. 29 issue of The Lancet, a special issue devoted to COPD, offer new insight into treatments, including a new anti-inflammatory drug that shows promise.

In the first report, patients who began treatment early with the inhaled drug tiotropium (Spiriva) had better outcomes compared with untreated patients.

"If you treat moderate disease with these anticholinergic drugs, you get clear improvements in lung function, health-related quality of life, exacerbations and even, maybe, in mortality, but that was not statistically significant, but there was a trend," said lead researcher Dr. Marc Decramer, a professor in the department of pathophysiology at University Hospital of the University of Leuven in Belgium.

In addition, "you seem to reduce the rate at which the disease progresses," he noted.

For the study, Decramer's group followed 2,376 patients with early COPD who took part in a study for four years. These patients were randomly assigned to receive Spiriva or a placebo.

The researchers found that the rate of decline in lung function was 12 percent lower among patients receiving Spiriva than for patients receiving the placebo.

In addition, patients taking Spiriva were healthier. Flare-ups of the disease were cut 18 percent, and hospitalization
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