Common antibiotic reduces COPD flare-ups
COPD—chronic obstructive pulmonary disease—refers to a group of conditions that block airflow in the lungs, like chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
It is the third leading cause of death in the United States. When symptoms flare up in what’s called a COPD exacerbation, a person suffers increased breathlessness, along with added issues like wheezing, fever, and coughing. According to professor of biostatistics John Connett, until now there haven’t been many good ways to prevent or treat these exacerbations.
Connett was second author and lead statistician of a recent NIH-funded study that examined whether the antibiotic azithromycin could reduce the frequency and severity of the COPD flare-ups. In a double-blind study, participants with COPD received either azithromycin daily for a year or a placebo, in addition to their usual care.
The results were encouraging.
“The azithromycin group had fewer exacerbations and they had them later in the year, on average,” says Connett. “Other treatments will address the symptoms and help the person feel and breathe a little bit better. This [arythromycin regime] actually prevents some flare-ups. It’s good news for the physicians and patients in the COPD community.”
The study’s next goal is to discern which patients stand to benefit most from azithromycin and how and why this antibiotic is beneficial.