April 1, 2011

Better Way to Prevent Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Flare-ups

By Helena Pujol, Ivanhoe Health Correspondent

(Ivanhoe Newswire) "“  A new treatment is helping sufferers of  Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) find relief in the form of a hand-held device to inhaled medication. The SPIRIVA HandiHaler is the first once-daily steroid free treatment that reduces the worsening of symptoms (exacerbations) in people with COPD, and can help manage the disease long term.

"In the United States, 12 million people have been diagnosed with COPD, yet as many as 24 million people may have the disease," Emily Baier, an Associate Director, Public Relations, of Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc. told Ivanhoe. "It is the fourth leading cause of death in America, killing one person every four minutes, or about 120,000 people each year".

COPD is a progressive and degenerative disease of the lungs, which primarily affects current and former smokers. The disease includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema, and is characterized by a restricted airflow in and out of the lungs. Over time, the lungs will lose their ability to function. Patients with COPD may experience exacerbations due to viral or bacterial infections, and even by pollution in the air, often resulting in hospitalization and more treatments. A third of all patients hospitalized for a COPD exacerbation will die within a year of the flare-up.

"The Prevention Of Exacerbations with Tiotropium (POET)-COPD, was a one-year study conducted in 725 medical centers in 25 countries involving more than 7,000 men and women with COPD. The objective was to compare the effects of two medicines on time to first COPD exacerbation," Baier said.

The first medication tested was tiotropium, a capsule that is inhaled through the SPIRIVA HandiHaler. The second medication was salmeterol, which was used through a HFA metered dose inhaler (MDI).  At this time, Salmeterol HFA-MDI is not offered or approved for COPD treatment in the United States.

During the POET-COPD study, over seven thousand men and women with moderate to severe COPD were randomly assigned to either tiotropium or salmeterol, and treated for one year.

"At the end of the year-long study period, SPIRIVA HandiHaler was shown to be significantly more effective at preventing COPD exacerbations than salmeterol HFA-MDI," Baier said.

Tiotropium works in helping COPD patients to breath easier by relaxing the narrow airways in their lungs, and allows the airways to stay open for up to 24 hours.  Over time, daily use of the SPIRIVA HandiHaler improves and sustains lung function, and helps to reduce flare-ups in COPD patients.

SOURCE:  The New England Journal of Medicine, March 23, 2011