Antibiotic may reduce acute COPD attacks
Good news for those who suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease — or COPD: A clinical trial involving more than 1,100 people has found that a common antibiotic called azithromycin can reduce the occurrence and severity of COPD exacerbations or flareups.
Professor John Connett, a University of Minnesota biostatistican, led the study. He said it’s especially good news because until now there has not been a good treatment for people who suffer from COPD. COPD refers to a group of chronic lung diseases that block airflow. These include bronchitis and emphysema.
“The azithromycin group had fewer exacerbations. They had them later in the year, on average. And they generally benefitted from this treatment,” Connett said. “It was a positive study. And it does have implications for treatment for COPD because there are not a lot of good treatments available right now. There are other treatments that will treat symptoms — make the person feel better, breathe a little bit better. This one actually prevents some illnesses.”
Potential side effects
Connett’s study did identify some side effects to the use of azithromycin, including hearing loss for a few study participants. The average age of those in the study was 65, Connett said.
“There were a few people who had some deterioration in their hearing levels. There was maybe 2 percent or so that had some loss of hearing. [But] there will be hearing loss anyway (in people age 65 and older),” Connett said. “There was hearing loss in both groups, but there was a little bit more in the azithromycin group.”
Advice for people who suffer from COPD
Connett offers advice for those who suffer from COPD.
“If a person has impaired hearing, they should be sure to mention that to their doctor, and have their hearing tested before they actually start azithromycin.”
About this study
The study was published in the Aug. 25 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
Azithromycin, an antibiotic available in generic form, is already prescribed for a wide variety of bacterial infections. Previous research suggested that this antibiotic might work for COPD exacerbations, but this study was the first to enroll a large number of COPD patients.