Use of popular inhalers increases pneumonia risk

February 11th, 2009 - 11:16 am ICT by IANS  

COPD is a progressive disease that makes it hard to breathe. It can cause coughing that produces large amounts of mucus, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness and other symptoms.

Wake Forest University School of Medicine researchers reviewed 18 randomized clinical trials, involving nearly 17,000 patients.

They compared the incidence of pneumonia in patients who had taken inhaled corticosteroids for at least 24 weeks versus patients who had taken a placebo, or patients who had taken combination inhaled corticosteroids and long-acting beta-antagonists versus patients who took only the long-acting bronchodilator.

Analysis of the results showed that inhaled corticosteroid use, alone or in combination with bronchodilators, for at least 24 weeks was associated with a significantly increased risk of pneumonia and serious pneumonia (60 to 70 percent increase); however, it was not associated with an increased risk of death.

Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of COPD, and most people who have COPD smoke or are former smokers. Long-term exposure to other lung irritants, such as air pollution, chemical fumes or dust, also may contribute to COPD.

It is estimated that more than 16 million Americans have COPD; however, that number is rising rapidly and the disease often goes undiagnosed, so some estimates put the actual number of Americans afflicted with the disease as high as 24 million, said a Wake Forest release.

These findings appeared in the current issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

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