Inhaled corticosteroids extend life of COPD patients

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Inhaled corticosteroids can lower the mortality rate of elderly chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients who have been hospitalized with pneumonia, a new study finds.

In this study, U.S. investigators studied VA records of 15,768 COPD patients over the age of 65 who were hospitalized with pneumonia between 2002 and 2007. Fifty-three percent received treatment with inhaled corticosteroids. Thirty days after treatment, the all-cause death rate was 10% for those given inhaled corticosteroids but 14% for those who didn't get the treatment. Ninety days post-treatment, the death rate for those who received the treatment was 17%, compared to 23% for those who didn't, according to the American Thoracic Society.

"These results have clear implications for current clinical practice, which has been informed in the past by a series of studies that found an increased risk of pneumonia with inhaled corticosteroid use," said VA researcher Eric Mortensen, MD. Instead, he said, this new study suggests that survival rates may be better for patients using inhaled corticosteroids when not medically contraindicated.

The study will be published in an upcoming print issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

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