COPD: A Little Treatment Helps a Lot

Craig Stoltz Health Guide
  • A new study suggests people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease can stay out of the hospital—and possibly live longer--if they participate in a low-level management program. COPD is the medical name given to “smoker’s lung”: the persistent phlegmy cough and constricted breathing that’s nearly always caused by smoking.


    So: A little treatment can go a long way. Let’s dig in.


    Three things you need to know:


    1. The patient support program studied wasn’t very intensive. Patients got an hour of group assessment and education; personalized medication recommendations; a basic self-management handout; and, to handle bad episodes, a refillable prescription for antibiotics and a steroid. A respiratory therapist called once a month, and patients were allowed to call when they needed to.

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    2. The program cut ER visit by more than half and hospitalizations by a third compared to similar people who got usual treatment from primary care docs. Fewer of the treated patients died, but the study lacked power to nail that down with specificity.


    3. The study was small, hasn’t been published and obviously couldn’t be “blinded,” which is to say people knew they were getting engaged treatment so the placebo effect may be in operation. The study was presented May 21 at the American Thoracic Society's International Conference, in Toronto.


    Still: If you have COPD, talk to your doctor or the hospital where you’re treated about participating in what’s usually called a “disease management” or “patient management” program for COPD. It can help keep you out of the ER.


    Our site has a roundup of recent news on COPD treatment and research. And here’s a good backgrounder on COPD from the American Academy of Family Physicians. Our site provides access to a range of experts, from patients who have battled COPD to doctors who treat lung diseases. And—of course—resources to help you quit smoking.

Published On: May 22, 2008