September 25, 2008
Inhaler Drugs Possibly Tied to Heart Problems
By The Associated Press
CHICAGO (AP) - Inhaler drugs used by millions of people with emphysema and bronchitis might slightly raise the risk for heart attacks and even death, a study suggests.The results aren't conclusive, and inhalers provide significant relief for these patients struggling to breathe. But the study authors urged doctors to closely monitor patients who use the inhalers.Most affected patients have both emphysema and chronic bronchitis. The condition's formal name, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, COPD, is the nation's fourth-leading cause of death.The study's increased risks were small, and the drugs' marketer said both medicines are safe. Outside experts called the study compelling but said it has limitations that make it hard to know if the drugs or something else was at fault.The drugs are tiotropium, sold as Spiriva Handihaler by Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc., and ipratropium, available generically and also sold by Boehringer under the brand name Atrovent.Spiriva, approved in 2004, and the decade-old Atrovent are used once or more daily to relax muscles and open lung airways. They've been used by 8 million patients worldwide.A Veterans Affairs study published last week linked ipratropium with an increased risk for heart-related deaths in men.The new study appears in today's Journal of the American Medical Association.
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