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Some Cystic Fibrosis Patients May Safely Stop Using Inhalers

Study found no increase in risk when individuals quit the regimen

THURSDAY, June 15, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Cystic fibrosis patients who want to reduce the quantity of drugs they take may be able to stop using their inhalers without damaging their health, a new study suggests.

Patients previously prescribed inhaled corticosteroids to improve their breathing did not experience negative symptoms as a result of stopping inhaler use, U.K. researchers found. The patients had no increase in breathing difficulties and no need for added antibiotics to fight infections, the team report in the June issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

For six months, researchers at London's Department of Pediatric Respiratory Medicine at Royal Brompton Hospital studied patients with cystic fibrosis. Eighty-four of the patients, averaging just under 15 years of age, were taking an inhaled corticosteroid, while 87 patients, averaging about 16 years of age, were not on the drug.

"Replacing the inhaled corticosteroids with a placebo was found to be safe, as there was no significant increase in lung-related adverse effects leading to withdrawal from the study, nor an increased need for oral corticosteroids," researcher Dr. Ian M. Balfour-Lynn said in a prepared statement.

Patients with cystic fibrosis typically experience a buildup of thick mucus in the lungs that can cause infections and difficulty breathing. The study authors noted that in Britain, 52 percent of children and 55 percent of adults with CF currently take an inhaled corticosteroid.

However, side effects from inhaled corticosteroids are common in CF patients, including adrenal deficiency and suppression. Some children also experience slowed growth.

Blafour-Lynn stressed that not all patients can or should stop taking their inhaled corticosteroids. "If there is objective evidence that a patient has benefited when inhaled corticosteroids were first started, then it is likely they should be continued on the drug," he said.

More information

To read more about cystic fibrosis, head to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

SOURCES: American Thoracic Society Journal, news release, June 15, 2006
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