You have to love that we live in an era of scientific results. Scientists have been working very hard to come up with better and safer medicines to control COPD, and a recent experiment may have discovered a medicine that works better than systemic corticosteroids to control COPD.
For a long time now, systemic corticosteroids have been used to control inflammation in COPD lungs. As the disease progresses, such steroids may be used more frequently, sometimes chronically, and in higher doses. This is often necessary in order to control the disease and to prevent and treat COPD flare-ups. The problem with using systemic steroids is they may cause undesirable side effects, which may include diabetes, Cushing’s syndrome, moon face, osteoporosis, ulcers, insomnia, heart rythym changes, increased blood pressure, etc. Despite these risks, physicians are often faced with no choice but to prescribe steroids. But a new study may have discovered a potential alternative to steroids therapy. Researchers in Austraiia experimented by giving COPD patients low doses of an antibiotic called azithromycin (Zithromax). After a three-month trial, they determined that it controlled inflammed air passages better than corticosteroids. They think that it does this by suppressing the production of a specific T-cell toxin, granzyme B, in the airway epithelium.
Zithromax is an antibiotic that is commonly prescribed to treat bacterial infections that lead to middle ear infections, tonsillitis, laryngitis, sinusitus, bronchitis and pneumonia. So since many patients with COPD also present with a colonization of bacteria in their lungs, the medicine would also help in this regard.
A bonus is that the side effects of Zithromax are significantly less than the side effects of steroids. Side effects of the antibiotic are generally mild, and may include diarhhea, vomiting, constipation, upset stomach, etc. Still, for most patients, side effects are negligible.
Surely there will need to be further studies, but if an antibiotic is proven to be better than corticosteroids, this would be great news for COPD patients, particularly those in the end stages of this disease.
If future studies show that low-dose Zithromax does indeed work better than steroids, the possibility exists that it could replace steroid therapy. Still, at the very least, this might provide physicians with a viable alternative to steroid therapy.
A Registered Respiratory Therapist and asthmatic