For patients with severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), combining a long-acting bronchodilator with an inhaled corticosteroid reduced the number of exacerbations by 35 percent.
The research appears in the second issue for January 2007 of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, published by the American Thoracic Society.
Peter Kardos, M.D., of the Respiratory Medicine Section of Maingau Hospital in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, and three associates treated patients with moderate to severe COPD from 92 respiratory centers across Germany. All had less than a 50 percent predicted lung function capability for their age group.
The researchers treated 487 patients with salmeterol, a long-acting bronchodilator, and gave 507 a combination therapy of salmeterol and fluticasone propionate, an inhaled corticosteroid. Of the total cohort, 792 patients completed all phases of the 44-week study.
In the combined therapy group, 324 patients experienced moderate to severe exacerbations, as compared to 464 in the control group. The authors believe that this reduction in exacerbations is likely of clinical importance for patients with severe COPD.
“Exacerbations are a major cause of disease-related problems,” said Dr. Kardos. “In particular, they greatly contribute to the decline of the health-related quality of life, increase symptoms and breathlessness, speed progression of the disease and increase the risk of mortality. In addition, exacerbations induce enormous economic costs. They can occur at any stage of the disease, but become more frequent as lung function impairment worsens.”
In the United States, COPD is the fourth leading cause of death, killing 122,283 Americans in 2003. In 2004, more than 11 million U.S. adults were estimated to suffer from the disease, which results from chronic bronchitis and emphysema, two lung diseases that frequently co-exist and interfere with normal breathing. Smoking is the primary cause of COPD.