hard-to-treat asthma

It’s hard to enjoy life to the fullest when you can’t catch your breath. Ongoing breathing difficulties result most frequently from a chronic condition such as asthma or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). Neither of these is considered an infectious disease, yet there is evidence that long-term use of a common antibiotic can significantly reduce exacerbations of COPD. These affect a patient’s quality of life and sometimes land them in the hospital with complications. In addition, the same drug may be useful for some cases of hard-to-treat asthma.

How Could Azithromycin Help People with Hard-to-Treat Asthma?

While COPD and asthma appear to be different diseases, the treatments for them are often similar. We talk with a physician about his research suggesting that many cases of asthma that start in adulthood are a consequence of a lung infection with bacteria that are difficult to detect, diagnose and treat.

The Patient’s Perspective:

We also get the patient’s perspective from a young athlete whose ability to compete was compromised until she finally recovered from the C. pneumoniae infection that was making it hard for her to breathe during races.

Might antibiotic treatment be appropriate for you or a family member with hard-to-treat asthma? Listen to find out.

This Week’s Guests:

Richard Albert, MD, is Chief of Medicine at Denver Health and Professor of Medicine at the University of Colorado in Denver. He is a specialist in pulmonary and critical care medicine.

His article on azithromycin to reduce exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease was published in The New England Journal of Medicine on August 25, 2011.  

His most recent research on the topic was published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine on April 29, 2014. 

Malia Cali is a student athlete at the University of North Carolina. Her story can be found in Dr. Hahn’s book.

David  Hahn, MD, MS, is Director of the Wisconsin Research and Education Network (WREN) and author of a new book, A Cure for Asthma? What Your Doctor Isn’t Telling You–and Why. Disclosure: Dr. Hahn’s book is published by People’s Pharmacy Press.

The photo features Dr. Hahn, Joe, Malia and Terry, left to right, in the studio at WUNC. It was taken by Will McIntyre.

Listen to the Podcast:

The podcast of this program will be available the Monday after the broadcast date. The show can be streamed online from this site and podcasts can be downloaded for free for four weeks after the date of broadcast. After that time has passed, digital downloads are available for $2.99. CDs may be purchased at any time after broadcast for $9.99.

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Air Date:May 17, 2014

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  1. Mary

    I have personally used NAC (N-acetyl cyseine) to clear a lung infection after the prescription drug I was taking was failing. My doctor wanted me to use a steriod inhaler. I know steroids mess with blood sugar so chose not to do so.
    I do need to keep taking it, though. No side effects for me.
    It is very hot & humid where I live. I guess I am fortunate NAC worked so well for me.

  2. PMA

    I’ve just learned that NAC (N-acetyl cysteine; comes from the amino acid L-cysteine) may be helpful with lung and liver conditions as well as cancer, HIV and other health issues. Recommend reading about possible side effects.
    Opened a papaya yesterday and wondered about any health benefits from the seeds. Online research (lots of good information) indicates that they are good for the liver. I froze the seeds on a tray, put in a container in the freezer, and plan to use 5 daily in my morning smoothie.

  3. denise

    This was very helpful and full of information. I have COPD and was thinking about a stem cell transplant. I will take the notes I took from this pod cast to my doc and see what he says. Thanks to my brother for telling about the pod cast. Thanks to the docs who participated. I also went to UNC, class of ’69. I will keep listening to these pod casts. We do not get these on our PBS here in Shreveport, La. But then we don’t get a lot of stuff here. Thanks again, you do a great service to people.

  4. cws

    I’m really surprised there hasn’t been more comments here. I read Dr. Hahn’s book and have a question about the azitromycin protocol. During the first few months of the protocol is there detox (toxins being released) causing the asthma to get worse before it gets better?

  5. kkb

    I have been hoping to purchase Dr. David Hahn’s book. Please tell me how to order it. A search of your website did not produce results. Please respond to the email address above. Thank you so much. Your program and interview with Dr. David were so helpful. He described my symptoms exactly.
    You can purchase Dr. Hahn’s book on asthma through our site here:
    or from amazon.com here:
    Thanks for your interest!

  6. DJ

    Your program on asthma and COPD struck a personal cord with me. I was diagnosed, after several bad bouts of bronchitis and pneumonia, with adult onset asthma. Meds seemed to help day to day but there were still so many flare ups.
    I struggled for about 5 years with a pulmonologist diagnosing emphysema even though I was not a smoker. My triggers first seemed to be respiratory infections but then even ordinary environmental things such as perfumes, dust, auto exhaust became triggers. Finally was evaluated at National Jewish Hospital in Denver with lack of diagnosis except some lung infection and obstruction….no asthma. This was back in early 2000.
    I was fortunate enough to find a great pulmonologist at Emory University for follow up care. He helped me get back on track with azithromycin and regular exercise. He just classes my case as obstructive pulmonary disease. I have a standing order for azithromycin to be taken if a respiratory infection shows signs of progression.
    It has been over 10 years and my lung function has finally improved to be close to normal for my age (69). It has been well over a year since I have had to take azithromycin and require no inhalers or other meds. Were it not for a doctor who was well enough informed and interested enough in finding a solution, I would not have the good health enjoyed today.
    As patients we sometimes have to look further if answers are not forthcoming. I still do not know the original cause of my respiratory problems but the beginning was many, many repeat infections. Dr. Hahn’s insight and research is a reminder that we have to continue to question and evaluate the “standard” treatments.
    I listen to The People’s Pharmacy every week and have learned so much. Thank you, Joe and Terry, for such an interesting and useful program!

  7. Jean C. Yovich

    Just heard your show Sat May 17 and would like to purchase Dr. David Hahn’s book. I am a HUGE fan. My neighbor has asthma and I wish to help him.

  8. PA

    As I understand asthma and COPD are inflammatory diseases, related – I think- to autoimmune disorders, I wonder about the relationship with a relatively new experimental treatment of some autoimmune disorders w/ long term low-dose antibiotics.
    I have recently started on one to try (desperately) this. I’ve been struggling for about 5 years with a baffling and worsening one (doctor thinks now maybe possibly some odd variant of lupus because of some symptoms, with other very odd and terrible uncomfortable ones).

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