(HealthDay News) — Tiotropium appears to be effective at improving lung function in patients with mild to moderate chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to a study published online Sept. 6 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Yumin Zhou, M.D., Ph.D., from the First Affiliated Hospital in China, and colleagues randomly assigned 841 patients with mild or moderate COPD to receive a once-daily inhaled dose (18 μg) of tiotropium (419 patients) or a placebo (422 patients) for two years.

The researchers found that in patients who received tiotropium, forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1) was higher than in those who received placebo throughout the trial (P < 0.001 for all comparisons). There was no significant improvement in mean annual decline in the FEV1 before bronchodilator use (difference, 15 ml per year; P = 0.06). However, after bronchodilator use the annual decline in the FEV1 was significantly less in the tiotropium group than in the placebo group (difference, 22 ml per year; P = 0.006). The groups were similar with regard to the incidence of adverse events.

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“In conclusion, this trial showed that tiotropium was effective in improving lung function and quality of life and resulted in a lower frequency of acute COPD exacerbations than placebo among patients with GOLD stage 1 or 2 disease. Whether early intervention with tiotropium alters the long-term course of COPD remains an open question,” conclude the authors.

The study was funded in part by Boehringer Ingelheim.

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