Individuals who live with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may be able to avert exacerbations of their condition with the help of a preventive regimen of azithromycin, according to new research. These findings may have an impact on the healthcare marketing of such antibiotics.
COPD is the third leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, a division of the National Institutes of Health. More than 12 million Americans live with this condition, which is also known as emphysema or chronic bronchitis. An additional 12 million individuals may have COPD and not be aware of it.
Exacerbations of COPD cause symptoms such as severe shortness of breath, aberrant mucus production and coughing. These episodes are potentially fatal and leave patients vulnerable to viral infections.
In an effort to prevent these exacerbations, a team of scientists from Virginia Commonwealth University conducted a review of preexisting studies on the effectiveness of a preventive regimen of azithromycin, taken three days a week.
They concluded that the antibiotic may be useful in preventing episodic flares of the lung condition.
"This approach has the potential to eliminate one-third of the severe exacerbations each year among patients with COPD," said researcher Richard Wenzel, M.D.
These findings may help persuade various medical groups to endorse the use of azithromycin as a preventive measure among COPD patients.
However, the scientists point out that such a regimen is not appropriate for all patients because of azithromycin's potential to cause side effects, such as hearing loss, disturbances in heart rhythms and the development of antibiotic resistance.
In their study, Wenzel and colleagues suggested that patients who have certain cardiovascular risks, take certain medications or already have hearing loss not take a preventive regimen of azithromycin.
Concurrent efforts to treat COPD include the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's recent approval of Tudorza Pressair. This medication is formulated to remedy the narrowness of the airways in the lungs of COPD patients.