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Asthma Drugs May Boost Cataract Risk for Elderly

Researchers urge caution in prescribing inhaled corticosteroids

MONDAY, June 12, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Elderly patients taking anti-asthmatic medications to treat their asthma or lung disease may be more likely to develop cataracts, a new study finds.

A Canadian research team studied data compiled over 14 years from more than 100,000 patients with either asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The data came from a provincial health database and included diagnosis and prescription information for each patient.

"We found that people over the age of 65 who take a cortisone-like medication called inhaled corticosteroids to lower their risk of asthma or COPD attacks are actually raising their risk of developing cataracts," study author Dr. Samy Suissa, an epidemiologist at McGill University Health Centre in Montreal, said in a prepared statement. "This important information to physicians and patients will help in the management of patients using these drugs."

For patients who took an inhaled corticosteroid each day, researchers found that their risk of developing cataracts was 24 percent higher than patients who did not use the drugs. Researchers also noted an increase in patients who took half the typical daily dose of a prescribed inhaled corticosteroid. Of all the patients studied, over 10,000 of them developed severe cataracts.

"We recommend that elderly asthma sufferers keep using these very effective medications, but make efforts to reduce the dose of inhaled corticosteroids as much as possible," Suissa said.

If patients are prescribed an inhaled corticosteroid, Suissa recommends a long-acting bronchodilator or anti-leukotriene combination therapy to reduce the risk of cataracts.

The study findings appear in the June issue of the European Respiratory Journal.

More information

For more on cataracts, head to the U.S. National Eye Institute.

SOURCES: McGill University Health Centre, news release, June 1, 2006
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