Corticosteroids Fight Chronic Lung Disease

The drugs cut patients' death risk by 25 percent, study found

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 13, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Inhaled corticosteroid drugs can significantly reduce the death risk for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Canadian researchers report.

Published in the September issue of Chest, the study included nearly 5,000 patients who were followed from 90 days to a year after being discharged from the hospital.

The researchers found an overall 25 percent reduced risk of death among those who took inhaled corticosteroids. The cardiovascular death rate alone was reduced by 38 percent among patients who used corticosteroids paired with another class of drugs, beta-agonists.

"COPD is an under-treated lung disease that has associated heart disease," researcher Dr. Christine Macie, of Cambridge Hospital in Ontario, explained in a prepared statement. "Controversy exists with respect to the effect of inhaled corticosteroids on mortality. Our study examined the effect of inhaled corticosteroids on survival, and results suggest that the survival is longer in patients using inhaled corticosteroids."

The death rate for COPD patients age 65 and older who started to take inhaled corticosteroids within 90 days of hospital discharge was 11.7 percent, compared to 13.1 percent for patients who did not. Among patients younger than 65, the death rate was 3 percent for those who took inhaled corticosteroids and 6 percent for those who did not. That's a 53 percent difference in death risk.

The study also concluded that the use of inhaled corticosteroids with bronchodilators was associated with a 23 percent reduced risk of death in patients 65 and older.

"Our results indicate that the effect of inhaled corticosteroids is relatively short-term, and that those currently using it are relatively better protected," Macie said. "Inhaled corticosteroids should be prescribed as soon as clinically indicated. By treating COPD with inhaled corticosteroids, we have the potential to reduce the effect and prolong life."

More information

The American Medical Association has more about COPD.

Robert Preidt

Robert Preidt

Updated on September 14, 2006

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