Thursday, January 19, 2012

Drug could have new use

Sufferers of a debilitating respiratory condition could get a boost in managing their illness.

Counties Manukau District Health Board is receiving $1.19 million over the next three years to trial a medication that could improve treatment for bronchiectasis, a long-term condition that affects a person's ability to breathe.

The Health Research Council awarded the funding as part of a wider $74m investment into health research.

Clinical head of respiratory Dr Conroy Wong is leading the trial of an inhaler now widely used to treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – COPD.

With bronchiectasis irreversible damage can occur to the bronchi in the lungs for various reasons, he says.

"Patients don't have the normal defence mechanisms to clear mucus from their lungs, making them prone to recurrent infections and further damage.

"Any treatment we can assist with will be an improvement to any patient with bronchiecstasis."

In most developed countries the rate of bronchiectasis has declined over the years. But New Zealand's rates remain higher than in other developed countries and are even higher among Pacific and Maori children.

Dr Wong says a lack of evidence-based treatments for bronchiectasis means his study will set the agenda for treating the condition.

"Very few countries could do this study because it's not easy to get large enough numbers to get a trial that makes a difference,`" he says Dr Wong.

"If it is as effective as we believe it should be, we should see a marked reduction in flare-ups of the disease, which would reduce the number of hospital and GP visits and also less antibiotics for patients.

"So any treatment that we can do to reduce that will be of huge benefit to all patients with bronchiecstasis."

The study will trial tiotropium, an inhaler drug commonly used to open up the airways of emphysema and chronic bronchitis sufferers.

If the three-year trial is successful the evidence will make a viable case for Pharmac to fund the drug, Dr Wong says.

- © Fairfax NZ News

Last updated 08:45 09/08/2011

Conroy Wong
TREATMENT TESTING: Health board head of respiratory medicine Dr Conroy Wong's three-year study could change the way bronchiectasis patients are treated.

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