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Spiriva Linked to Increased Heart Attacks and Strokes

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Last week, a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found a 34% increased risk of dying from a heart attack or irregular heartbeat in COPD patients using ipratropium, which is in the same class as Spiriva, compared with those using albuterol, another COPD drug, or using nothing. The study focused on veterans diagnosed before Spiriva was approved in 2004.

In case you are unaware, COPD refers to two incurable lung ailments, chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Most COPD patients have both. The most common cause of COPD is cigarette smoking. Spiriva (tiotropium bromide inhalation powder) taken as directed is being said to help manage COPD. Boehringer Ingelheim, a German company that markets Spiriva with Pfizer, says worldwide sales rose 35% in 2007. Boehringer also makes Combivent, and Pfizer makes Atrovent.

However in the article, Lung drugs might be taking toll on the heart, researchers say overall, 1.8% of patients given tiotropium or ipratropium died of cardiovascular disease or had a non-fatal heart attack or stroke, compared with 1.2% of patients on other drugs, a statistically significant difference.

Spiriva is said to not be a treatment for COPD but a maintenance medicine to help you control COPD and breathe better. Researchers pooled the results of 17 clinical trials of 14,783 patients that compared the drugs tiotropium or ipratropium with other COPD treatments. The studies followed patients for six weeks to five years.For every 40 people who got one of the drugs in a year, there was one extra death, says co-author Curt Furberg, a Wake Forest University epidemiologist. “It’s a big drug, so it’s affecting a large number of people.”

In March, the Food and Drug Administration notified health care professionals that a pooled analysis comparing Spiriva with a placebo revealed a possible increased risk of stroke in patients on the drug. The analysis by Boehringer found that 8 per 1,000 Spiriva patients a year had a stroke, vs. 6 per 1,000 on a placebo.

At the time, the FDA said it had not confirmed the finding.

The Health and Science Institiute states that research is being done to try and help patients with COPD because currently any type of medicine on the market today can’t cure COPD. Treatments currently being researched without the aid of medicine are:

· Literally poking holes in patients’ lungs

· Shooting special “glue” into their lungs, and

· Putting one-way valves inside bronchial tubes to let stale air out