Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD is a common breathing problem. When there is an acute flareup, patients often experience wheezing, coughing and labored breathing. The usual treatment involves inhaled bronchodialtors and corticosteroids. Now researchers report in the New England Journal of Medicine that the use of an antibiotic called azithromycin can diminish the number of flare-ups. Over a thousand patients were randomized to receive either daily doses of this antibiotic or a placebo. The study lasted one year during which the people on azithromycin were about 30 percent less likely to have an acute episode of COPD. Their quality of life also improved. One side effect of the antibiotic was hearing loss. This symptom occurred in 20 percent of those on placebo and 25 percent of those on the antibiotic.
[NEJM, Aug. 25, 2011]