From the Netherlands comes an important study that concludes, “The results of this review show that intake of various vitamins are associated with improvement in features of COPD such as symptoms, exacerbations, and pulmonary function.” The researchers also go on to say, “Increased vitamin intake could probably reduce the annual decline of FEV1.” (FEV1 is a test for the amount of air someone can forcefully exhale in one second, and is an important indicator of the condition of one’s lungs.) The researchers’ study consists of a review of a vast amount of earlier research (they cite 118 studies). Highlights of their findings are:
*a diet low in vitamins decrease defenses and increase airway inflammation
Vitamins C and E
Vitamins A and B
Conclusion: The researchers conclude that eating foods rich in the above vitamins might help in the management of COPD. However, they point out one very importing thing: “Although there are many studies that associate vitamins with improvement in lung function tests, there is no clear evidence of the benefit of vitamin supplements. Most studies regarding supplements showed no benefit of multivitamin supplementation in symptoms, spirometric function [breathing tests] or hospitalization for COPD.” If this is true, it might pay to head to the vegetable store instead of the pharmacy. For the full report, see http://tinyurl.com/2elquux
- COPD NOW RANKED THIRD LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH IN U.S
The third leading cause of death in the US is now COPD, according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Their finding is based on a review of the causes of deaths occurring in 2008. Prior to this study, COPD was ranked in fourth place, right after stroke. There are a couple of reasons given why COPD moved up a notch: First, deaths due to stroke decreased; and second, the definition of deaths from COPD is now broader than it was in the past. According to the CDC report, “Starting with 2008, death certificates that independently mention pneumonia in conjunction with a chronic lower respiratory infection are now classified as ‘Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease with Acute Lower Respiratory Infection’ which is one of the conditions that make up the larger category of known as CLRD.” CLRD, they explain, is “Chronic Lower Respiratory Disease.” Incidents of deaths labeled CLRD increased by 7.8 percent in 2008. According to the CDC, the increase in deaths due to COPD therefore, “needs to be interpreted with caution.” If you want to read the report (in pdf format), you might want to go directly to page 8 (of 72), at http://tinyurl.com/2cspa95
Canada has approved the new drug Daxas (roflumilast), and the manufacturer is anticipating it will hit pharmacies in January, 2011. Although approved in the European Union and elsewhere, it is still pending approval in the U.S. It is a new type of bronchodilator, the first of its kind in a new class of medications (PED4 inhibitors) prescribed for people with COPD. It is intended as an “add-on” to other treatments for “severe” COPD. It is a once-a-day tablet, and meant to treat the underlying inflammation from COPD rather than everyday symptoms. For more information, see http://tinyurl.com/2amlhns
The American Lung Association (ALA) announced in two related news releases that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) wants to delay their final decision on air quality…again. Originally scheduled for December 31, 2010, they now want to delay their decision until July 29, 2011. This is the third time they’ve requested a delay. The ALA claims that according to EPA’s own estimates, “a six–month delay means that an estimated 2,000 to 6,000 people will lose their lives because they must breathe air pollution that would have been cleaned up if the EPA had met its most recent deadline of December 31, 2010.” The ALA also reports that 284 medical societies, public health groups, and other advocacy groups, are calling on Congress to block the delay. The two related AMA press releases can be found at
Medical News Today reports on a study by the Medicare Today Coalition that finds only 20 percent of “seniors” (are they assuming all Medicare beneficiaries are seniors?) are aware that in 2011, Medicare Part D plans will cover 50 percent of the cost of brand name drugs while enrollees are in the doughnut hole (aka donut hole)! On a more positive note, they report 84 percent of beneficiaries are satisfied with their coverage, and most find their plan affordable. For more information, please see http://tinyurl.com/22oar5l
ELDERCARE: HELP FOR ELDERS
Valerie, from Wyoming, shares the following information on an important resource for many people:
“Perhaps you have received this information in the mail this past week, but if not I thought I would share.”
Help for Elders: “The Eldercare locator is a free public service. By calling 1-800-677-1116 or visiting the website below, you can consult with a specialist in your area who will explain programs for financial, employment, legal and care-giving advice.”
“If you are a Medicare beneficiary with limited resources and income, you may be able to get extra help paying for your monthly premiums, deductibles, and co payments under the prescription drug program by calling 1-800-772-1213 or visiting:”
Valerie also advises you ask about the Medicare Savings Program in your state for additional help!
Although other physical conditions besides COPD may increase the likelihood of panic attacks, it is a particularly common problem for those of us with COPD. Dr. Vijai P. Sharma, a psychologist and yoga instructor with COPD, helps us understand and deal with panic attacks. Panic attacks, he claims, are the most common psychiatric disorder in COPD. He describes panic in individuals with COPD as our built-in “suffocation alarm system” that prevents us from suffocating. He explains that this alarm system, unfortunatley, can go haywire, leading us to react to situations that are not truly life threatening. For those prone to panic attacks, he acknowledges that even a slight change in breathing can set off this alarm. His explanation can be found at http://tinyurl.com/2f2bqr8
Dr Sharma has a number of his books, articles, and other information on his website (including information on other conditions, alternative medicine, yoga, etc.). Of special interest to us is his free book, entitled, “Anxiety and Panic Attacks In Emphysema / Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases (COPD).” It is free, and available to read online at
It is not unheard of for hospitalized patients to tell the person on the other end of the line, “I have to go now. Dinner is here, and the shrimp are huge tonight!” Kaiser Health News (not the insurance company) reports that hospitals are increasingly attempting to attract patients with upscale services. Simultaneously, they are cutting back on costs associated with patients less able to pay their bills. For more information, see http://tinyurl.com/2cqs35f
The European website Pharmiweb, reports on some chilling statistics from the British Lung Foundation (BLF) and British Thoracic Society (BTS). Their report reveals, “a shocking 75% of patients with a chronic lung disease feel that they were discharged from hospital too early with the majority (84%) feeling that they wouldn’t be able to cope when they got home. Alarmingly, the report also found that only 53% of patients were seen by a respiratory specialist before discharge and only 32% of hospitals actually use a formal discharge checklist.”
The wonder drug aspirin has yet another claim to fame! The Lancet reports that long-term use of low-dose aspirin has been found to reduce the risk of dying from a number of cancers. Researchers found that individual taking 75 mg of aspirin daily for 5 years reduced their risk of cancer by 10 to 60 percent, depending on the type of cancer. The Lancet also reports that earlier studies find that low-dose aspirin also reduces the risk of colorectal cancer. Of course, there are always downsides to explore, and low-dose therapy might not be for everyone, so before you grab that aspirin bottle, check with your doctor. For the summary of the article, please go to http://tinyurl.com/37eq87a
According to ABC News, the U.S. Justice Department says it settled with three pharmaceutical companies for $421 million for their involvement in a scheme to inflate the price of drugs paid by Medicare and Medicaid. The drug companies are Abbott Laboratories, B. Braun Medical Inc. and Roxane Laboratories. For more details, see http://tinyurl.com/23mkf2r
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Until next Friday,