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Lancet trial researchers call for earlier COPD treatment

By Mark Pownall

Treatment of COPD in patients with early symptoms is effective in slowing decline in lung function, a new analysis concludes.

Specialists are arguing that the evidence should be incorporated into the Department of Health's long-awaited clinical strategy on COPD.

A clinical trial called Understanding Potential Long-Term Impacts on Function with Tiotropium, or UPLIFT, found patients with mild disease – excluded from previous clinical trials of COPD – respond to treatment as well as patients with more severe disease.

Treatment of a total of 2,739 patients with milder disease, defined as FEV1 between 50-70% of expected, with tiotropium reduced the rate of lung function decline by 12% more than placebo.

Professor Marc Decramer, a professor in respiratory medicine at the University of Leuven in Belgium, concluded in The Lancet study published today: ‘Treatment should begin in symptomatic patients with moderate disease.'

In an accompanying editorial, UK specialists said the results should encourage the DH to prioritise early identification of COPD in primary care.

Professor Peter Calverley, director of the Aintree Chest Centre at the University of Liverpool, said treatment ‘can provide the patient with better symptomatic control of their condition and improvements in their overall wellbeing'.

‘The data should encourage those developing plans for the early identification of COPD, which includes the department of Health.'

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