Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, is the third leading cause of death in the United States. It afflicts more than 13 million Americans, and, according to the National Institutes of Health, nearly as many more are estimated to have the condition but don’t know it. COPD is a lung disease that combines chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Patients often can’t work or exercise and have trouble with daily tasks.
That’s why experts urge getting tested for COPD if you’re at risk. Early detection is essential for the most effective treatment. Risk factors include smoking, exposure to dust and particles including secondhand smoke, and being over 40. There’s also evidence of a genetic link. There’s no cure, but there are treatments that can keep symptoms under control.
While the single most effective measure you can take to avoid or treat COPD is to quit smoking, there are a variety of medications that are used, and that number is growing. In fact, American pharmaceutical companies currently have 54 treatments in the final stages of development. That means the medications are being tested or awaiting FDA approval.
One group of researchers are studying an antibiotic called azithromycin. According to a study, patients on a year-long course of azithromycin—sold as Zithromax—were affected by COPD more than 20 percent less often and reported better quality of life. This and other promising new treatments can improve and even save the lives of patients.