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COPD Drugs Linked To Increased Cardiovascular Health Risks: Study

The use of some drugs that treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), such as Serevent and Symbicort, may increase the risk of heart problems after just one month of regular use, according to the findings of a new study. 

Researchers from Taiwan report that some COPD treatments are linked with a 1.5-fold increased cardiovascular risk after just 30 days of use. The findings were published on January 2 in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

The study looked at initial use and new use of inhaled long-acting β2-agonists (LABAs) or antimuscarinic antagonists (LAMAs) among more than 280,000 patients with COPD in Taiwan from 2007 to 2011. LABAs include brands such as Foradil, Serevent, Symbicort, AirDuo, and Advair Diskus. LAMAs include brands such as Spiriva, the Ultibro Breezhaler, and Tudorza Pressair.

According to the findings, new use of either class of medication was linked with a 1.5-fold increased risk of cardiovascular disease within 30 days of initiation. Neither the type of drug nor whether it was inhaled or taken in pill form appeared to make to make a difference in regard to the overall risks. The researchers indicated the risk also did not differ based on the patient’s heart disease history or other risk factors.

“New initiation of LABAs or LAMAs in patients with COPD is associated with an approximate 1.5-fold increased severe cardiovascular risk, irrespective of prior CVD status and history of exacerbations,” the researchers concluded.

The findings came just two weeks after the FDA announced it was removing a boxed warning from other LABAs in combination with inhaled corticosteroids which indicated that they carried an increased risk of death. However, the FDA also noted that using long-acting beta agonists alone for the treatment of lung inflammation is still associated with an increased risk of asthma-related death, and a black box warning about those risks will remain in place for all single-ingredient LABA medications.

COPD is a chronic inflammatory lung disease that causes the airflow from the lungs to become blocked. It is also an umbrella term for several chronic lung conditions, such as bronchitis and emphysema. People with COPD often experience persistent cough, mucus, shortness of breath, and chest tightness.

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