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Wednesday, 4 September, 2002, 05:40 GMT 06:40 UK
Killer lung disease drug launched
Healthy lung (left) and a lung with COPD
A treatment has been launched in the UK which could makes life easier for patients with a chronic lung disease.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), covers conditions including chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

In COPD, the lungs become increasingly obstructed over time, making breathing more and more difficult.

It affects over one in 100 people in the UK, and there are up to 27,000 deaths from COPD each year.

Janice Matthews
Janice Matthews: 'COPD is a very disabling illness'
It is caused by many factors, but mainly by smoking,

COPD is called the "hidden killer" because two-thirds of the population have never heard of it.

Convenience

The new treatment, tiotropium (Spiriva), was launched by drug companies Boehringer Ingelheim and Pfizer.

It works by counteracting the constriction of the muscles of the lung passages.

By dilating the airways, the passage of air in and out of the lungs is improved, making breathing easier.

Doctors say the drug, which is taken via an inhaler, is easier and more convenient for COPD patients.

Dr Michael Rudolf
Dr Michael Rudolf: says drugs specifically designed for COPD are needed
Dr Michael Rudolf, consultant respiratory physician at Ealing Hospital, London, and head of the British Thoracic Society's COPD committee, said: "Unlike the other drugs, this has the advantage of only having to be taken once a day.

"And it is easy to use, even in people with particularly poor lung function."

He added: "One of the major problems with drug treatments has been that nearly all the drugs we've used were developed for asthma.

"What we badly need are drugs designed specifically for COPD based on the increasing knowledge that we now have of the underlying abnormalities of the lungs that produce the problems for COPD patients."

'A better chance'

Professor Peter Calverley, consultant respiratory physician at Aintree Hospitals Liverpool, added: "Until recently, COPD has been regarded as a 'therapeutic wasteland' by many doctors who think little can be achieved for these patients.

"Results in clinical studies show that there are effective drugs for COPD.

"Better recognition of the clinical features of COPD will also allow earlier intervention in this condition, giving sufferers the chance to maintain better health."

Janice Matthews from Warrington, who suffers from COPD, said: "It's a very disabling illness. You feel so breathless all the time. The slightest thing is such a major operation to do."

A spokesperson for the British Lung Foundation told BBC News Online: "We always welcome new developments in COPD treatments and medication, and are following with keen interest the progress of Spiriva."

See also:

07 Jan 02 | Health
22 Aug 00 | Health
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