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Steroid inhalers raise pneumonia risk for lung disease patients

Published: 03 Jan 2009 22:12:28 PST

inhalersA new review of existing data confirms that some common inhalers do not boost the life spans of people with the lung disease known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). In fact, these medicines may even raise the risk of pneumonia in patients with COPD. However, patients should not stop using the inhalers without consulting their doctors first, because the devices still provide benefit in some cases, said Dr M Bradley Drummond, review lead author.

Treatment can ease symptoms, but there is no cure for COPD. More than 90 per cent cases are related to smoking. In many cases, patients can extend their lives by stopping smoking and breathing oxygen. Some turn to inhaled corticosteroids, which reduce inflammation by calming the immune system. The researchers found no significant difference in one-year death rate from research involving more than 4,600 patients who used the inhalers versus a similar number of patients who did not. It is not clear why the inhalers may boost the risks of pneumonia, he said, but they may suppress the immune system in the lungs.

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