A Drug For COPD May Help Some With Asthma

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For people with asthma that’s not adequately controlled with a standard inhaler, there is good news on the horizon. Spiriva, a medicine that is already approved to treat lung disease, appears to help improve breathing in people with asthma. However, the study’s authors and independent experts stress that these findings are preliminary and that longer, more intensive trials are needed.

Spiriva (tiotropium bromide) belongs to the anticholinergic drug class, and these drugs work by opening the airway to encourage freer breathing. As of now, the FDA has only approved Spiriva for use in patients with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), which is a condition that combines bronchitis and emphysema. Treating asthma is difficult because standard treatments don’t work in a lot of cases, so any new asthma drug would be of great help to sufferers.

The report was sponsored by the US National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and it is in the September 19 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine’s online version. In the study, 210 asthmatics took one of three drug regimens: Spiriva and an inhaled steroid, two doses of the inhaled steroid, or Serevent plus the steroid. Patients stayed on the regimen for fourteen weeks, and the researchers found that the Spiriva/steroid combination was more effective than the double-dose of steroids in people with tough-to-control asthma.

That could be important because there are some concerns about the safety of beta agonists such as Serevent (they even have a warning label that warns of the possibility of adverse events including death. The results of the study need to be duplicated with a greater group of patients, and Spiriva’s safety for people with asthma still needs to be investigated.

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