Tue, Dec 16, 2008 - Page 2 News List

Medical forum discusses new drug for COPD cases

By Shelley Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

A recent clinical trial has shown that Tiotropium, a drug for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), can effectively sustain lung function and improve the patient’s survival rate, doctors told a Taipei conference yesterday.

COPD is a progressive and degenerative condition where the airways become narrowed, leading to shortness of breath, nonstop coughing, sputum formation and wheezing.

A study, Understanding Potential Long-term Impacts on Function with Tiotropium (UPLIFT), was first presented at the European Respiratory Society Annual Congress and was one of the discussion topics during the Annual Meeting of the Taiwan Society of Pulmonary and Critical Care yesterday.

The four-year-long study was a double-blind, placebo-controlled test with 5,993 COPD patients from 37 countries. The study compared patients given 18 micrograms of tiotropium once a day with a control group, who received a placebo, said Kuo Bing-hong (郭炳宏), an attending physician at the National Taiwan University Hospital’s pulmonary medicine division.

Patients on tiotropium showed a significant delay of the first signs of exacerbation by about 4.1 months and a significant reduction in the number of exacerbations per patient year, he said.

They also reported a better quality of life as well as a 16 percent decrease in the risk of death, he said.

“UPLIFT faced a considerable challenge to demonstrate treatment benefits — unlike most other respiratory trials; it allowed all patients to be treated with all other concomitant respiratory medications,” said Yang Pan-chyr (楊泮池), the dean of National Taiwan University’s College of Medicine and the study’s principal investigator in Taiwan.

About 5 percent of those over 40 years of age in Taiwan are affected by COPD, which is mainly caused by cigarette smoking, Kuo said.

About 30 percent of all long-term smokers are predicted to develop COPD at some point in their lives, he said.

Considering that the smoking population in Taiwan is about 4.5 million people, it is estimated that 1.35 million will develop COPD in old age, he said.

Because the disease can be treated more effectively if detected early, those who are over 40, cigarette smokers or thosse who often suffer from phlegm, coughing or wheezing are advised to seek medical help, he said.

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