Aug. 23, 2011 -- A common antibiotic, taken for a year, reduced the number of flare-ups in patients with the lung disease known as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), according to new research.
''In patients with COPD at high risk for flare-ups, the addition of daily azithromycin for one year reduced the frequency of those events," says researcher Mark Dransfield, MD, director of the University of Alabama at Birmingham Lung Health Center.
COPD is most often caused by smoking. Patients find it difficult to breathe as the disease progresses. They get infections more often, which leads to even more shortness of breath, Dransfield tells WebMD.
"A typical person with moderate to severe COPD gets one to three of these flare-ups each year," he says.
The regimen reduced flare-ups by about 20%, he says.
At least 13 million U.S. adults have COPD.
Minimizing the flare-ups can reduce hospitalizations and improve quality of life, he says. However, some of the side effects of long-term antibiotic use are of concern, he says.
The study is published in The New England Journal of Medicine. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health.