3 New Treatments for COPD

Thursday, July 17, 2014
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FRESNO, Calif. -- It's the third leading cause of death in the U.S., killing more than 130,000 Americans a year. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease- COPD-can literally take a person's breath away. Now, there are three new treatments that may help patients breathe easier.

Not long ago, crocheting was simply too much for Mary Morgan.

"I couldn't do it because my back hurt so badly, with every breath I was trying to take," Morgan told Ivanhoe.

Mary has COPD. The former pack-a-day smoker developed the disease at age 45.

"I knew what it was, but you know when you're young, you think, 'ah' that can't happen to me,'" Morgan said.

In COPD, the lungs become inflated and air is trapped. Doctors implanted tiny coils into Morgan's lungs to shrink them and restore elasticity.

"When you release them into the lungs, they just coil up and what they do is they draw the hyper-inflated lung close together," Atul C. Mehta, MD, FACP, FCCP, Professor of Medicine, Staff, Respiratory Institute, The Cleveland Clinic, told Ivanhoe.

Studies in Europe showed the experimental procedure improved lung function by 18 percent.

The Lung Flute is another new therapy for COPD. When patients blow, sound waves travel down the airways - and mobilize mucus. Studies show using it twice a day, improves lung congestion.

"It helps with the clearance of the mucus and essentially, then they feel better the rest of the day," Sanjay Sethi, MD , Professor of Medicine and Chief of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine, at UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, told Ivanhoe.

In a nationwide study, COPD patients who took the common antibiotic azithromycin daily-along with their regular meds - reported fewer symptom flare-ups.

"We were able to demonstrate that you were able to significantly decrease, by more than 20 percent the rate of these flare-ups in at-risk people," Fernando Martinez, MD, MS , Director of Pulmonary Diagnostic Services , The University of Michigan Health System, told Ivanhoe.

Morgan still needs oxygen - but after her the coil procedure, she feels good enough to walk the treadmill.

"I just felt such a release, and that was immediately," Morgan said.

Now, she can breathe a little easier and move a little more.

The Lung Flute is FDA approved, but a doctor's prescription is needed to get one. The coil procedure is performed as part of a clinical trial. Researchers are still enrolling patients. For more information on enrolling, go to: clinicaltrials.gov/show/NCT01608490.


BACKGROUND: COPD is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. It is a progressive disease that makes it difficult to breathe. Smoking is the primary risk factor for the disease. About 85 to 90 percent of COPD deaths are caused by smoking. Other risk factors include exposure to air pollution, occupational dusts and chemicals, secondhand smoke, heredity, a history of childhood respiratory infections and socioeconomic status. It develops slowly. Symptoms often become worse over time and can limit your ability to do routine activities. There is no cure yet. However, there are treatments and lifestyle changes that can help a patient feel better and stay more active. (Source: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/copd/ and http://www.lung.org/lung-disease/copd/resources/facts-figures/COPD-Fact-Sheet.html)

LUNG COILS: Today, there are some minimally-invasive techniques available to treat the symptoms of emphysema. One technique is called the RePneu coils. They are designed to help restore the lung's natural elasticity while holding small airways open, helping you breathe easier, feel better and live a more active life. The rounded shape of the coils resembles a tiny flexible spiral. Coils are made of a shape-memory material called Nitinol, which are common in medical implants like cardiac stents and bone anchors. The coils can be easily straightened to pass through your airways, then gently regain their coiled shape once in place. The multicenter study is currently enrolling patients all over the country. For more information, go to: http://clinicaltrials.gov/show/NCT01608490) (Source: http://www.pneumrx.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/LIT0053.A-PatientBrochure-web.pdf)

LUNG FLUTE: Some people with COPD have excess mucus in their lungs. A recent device is now available to help with this issue called the Lung Flute. It is the only product that uses sound vibration to stimulate the body's natural mucus-clearing system. It is a reusable, plastic device that is non-invasive and drug free. Clinical tests have proven that the Lung flute is capable of breaking up mucus in the lungs, making it effective for diagnostic use and therapy. The technology is based on low-frequency acoustic waves that are produced when it is blown into. Unlike other technology, this device reaches into the lower airways and lung parenchyma to clear secretions deep in the lungs. (Source: www.lungflute.com)

AZITHROMYCIN: A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine showed a common antibiotic, called azithromycin, reduced the number of flare-ups in patients with COPD. For the study, 570 patients with COPD took 250 milligrams of the antibiotic daily for a year, and 572 others took a placebo pill that looked the same. Typically, a patient with COPD who has a flare-up is given a course of antibiotics, but not long-term. The researchers decided to look at the long-term treatment because similar regimens have shown promise in other lung diseases, like cystic fibrosis. Compared to the placebo, the antibiotic reduced flare-ups by about 20 percent. At the one-year mark, those in the placebo group had on average 1.83 flare-ups, but those in the antibiotic group had 1.48. (Source: The New England Journal of Medicine)