Antibiotic Could Help Cystic Fibrosis

Azithromycin Might Work When Other Drugs Don't

From the WebMD Archives

Sept. 26, 2002 - A certain antibiotic may help children with cystic fibrosis who don't respond well to other treatment. A new study shows the drug azithromycin can improve lung function.

Researchers at two pediatric cystic fibrosis centers in England tested azithromycin on 41 patients aged 8-18. One group took the drug for six months while another group took a dummy pill. They both took two months off then switched pills. Neither group knew which pill they were taking.

The drug's effectiveness was gauged by changes in lung capacity as measured by forced expiratory volume (FEV). FEV is the greatest volume of air a person can breathe out during a one-, two-, or three-second forceful exhalation. In this study, the researchers measured FEV for one second.

Azithromycin was linked with a 5.4% overall improvement in FEV. But in 31% (13) of the kids, it worked much better - they had more than a 13% improvement in FEV. A handful of kids got worse, though; five of the 41 had a 13% reduction in FEV.

The study is published in the Sept. 28 issue of The Lancet.

Even the modest 5% improvement could be valuable for patients who don't respond well to other drugs, the researchers say, because azithromycin caused virtually no side effects and is relatively inexpensive. They don't know exactly why it improved lung function, but they suspect the drug had an anti-inflammatory effect.

Cystic fibrosis is one of the most common inherited diseases in white people, and 95% of patients ultimately die of respiratory failure. -->