Early treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease ( COPD) slows loss of lung function and likely extends survival, a large-scale clinical trial shows.
COPD is almost always caused by smoking. It includes two diseases: chronic bronchitis, in which the airways become inflamed; and emphysema, in which the air sacs in the lung are damaged.
Over time, COPD gets worse. Treatment does not reverse lung damage, but it can make patients feel better.
The enormous UPLIFT study enrolled nearly 6,000 COPD patients in 487 centers in 37 nations. UPLIFT tested the inhaled, long-acting bronchodilator Spiriva.
Last year, UPLIFT study investigators reported that Spiriva can safely help patients with severe COPD breathe more easily. But treatment did not slow the inexorable loss of lung function in COPD patients.
But what if Spiriva were begun earlier, in patients with more moderate, early disease? Few COPD studies have enrolled patients with early-stage disease.
Analysis of the subset of 2,739 UPLIFT patients with moderate COPD shows that Spiriva could actually slow COPD progression. Treatment also reduced COPD exacerbations and improved quality of life over the four-year study.