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Patients Taking Inhaled Steroids may Develop Pneumonia

Patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) are increasingly being prescribed inhaled corticosteroids to control exacerbations of the disease , but a new study finds that the anti-inflammatory drugs increase the chances that these patients will be hospitalized for pneumonia.

In a large cohort of patients with COPD, we found that current inhaled corticosteroid use was associated with a significant 70 percent increase in the risk of being hospitalized for pneumonia, said the researchers.

Furthermore, for the severest pneumonias leading to death within 30 days of hospitalization, the risk with current inhaled corticosteroid use was also significantly increased.

These and other findings of the population-based study were reported in the second issue of the July American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, published by the American Thoracic Society.

Pierre Ernst, M.D., a clinical epidemiologist at McGill University, Canada, along with three other researchers from the universitys department of medicine, analyzed the hospitalization and drug prescription information from 1988 to 2003 of 175,906 patients with COPD living in Quebec, Canada. During that time, 23,942 of the patients were hospitalized for pneumonia.

In their report, the researchers noted that the admission rate for pneumonia increased with higher doses of inhaled steroids and that reduction in risk was observed once the medications were stopped. Among all patients taking inhaled steroids, there was a 53 percent increase in pneumonia deaths within 30 days of being admitted to the hospital.

The investigators noted that these findings are particularly relevant, given that pneumonia is the third leading cause of hospitalization in the United States and that inhaled corticosteroid use among patients with COPD increased from 13.2 to 41.4 percent from 1987 to 1995.

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