Sufferers of chronic bronchitis and emphysema could reduce their risk of death just by taking antibiotics. Researchers came to this conclusion in a recent review study.
The researchers looked at a collection of studies using placebos or active antibiotics in the treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) flare-ups. They found that sufferers of COPD (people with bronchitis or emphysema, or both) could seriously reduce their symptoms and decrease their risk of death just by taking a course of antibiotic therapy when their symptoms started to worsen.
This is a common problem in chronic lung diseases; the disease will remain consistent in severity for a long period of time, but will suddenly get drastically worse. The normal symptoms (coughing, difficulty breathing, and excess sputum) of these diseases are exacerbated, thus making life very difficult for the sufferers.
The use of antibiotics during these flare-ups has been widely debated. Right now, doctors are trying to move away from unnecessary antibiotic therapy because it provides a ground for the production of tougher, more resistant strains of bacteria.
Still, many patients have found relief using antibiotics for their chronic lung disease. That’s why many doctors have insisted on using antibiotics to treat COPD flare-ups — and that’s why at least 11 controlled and randomized trials have been done in this area.
Researchers involved in the Cochrane review examined these 11 trials, which included a total of 917 patients, and found a 53% reduction in the treatment’s failure rates in patients taking antibiotics. This meant that the patients wouldn’t need to receive any medical treatment beyond their normal routine — and this change could save patients
thousands of dollars.
Also, other research revealed that for every one person who died on antibiotic therapy, 4.5 patients died when they didn’t receive antibiotics, proving that taking antibiotics during these flare-ups could save patients’ lives.
The researchers felt so confident about their results that they recommended further placebo-controlled trials testing antibiotics in COPD patients should be halted. Because the benefits of antibiotics have been proven again and again, administering placebos to patients at this point would be unfair and unethical, according to the authors of this study.
Still, if your doctor believes another therapy is better for you, don’t hesitate to follow his/her advice. Remember that every patient is different and your doctor knows your medical history better than anyone else does.