The University of Aberdeen and Aberdeen Royal Infirmary in Scotland is recruiting patients suffering from lung diseases to enroll in a wide-ranging study in the United Kingdom designed to evaluate if an old and a new drug can work together in the treatment of common lung diseases.
Professor Graham Devereux, who is leading the study that is taking place on several sites across UK, in addition to Aberdeen, will be focusing on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a condition that kills approximately 28,000 people every year in the UK alone, and is the sixth leading cause of death in the country. Its symptoms include narrowing airways, difficulties in breathing, persistent cough and chest infections, costing the National Health Services (NHS) GBP 1.6 billion yearly.
“COPD is one of the most common respiratory diseases in the UK and is a rather unpleasant condition which results in narrowing of the airways of the lungs and is associated with much suffering,” Devereux said. “Patients with COPD often suffer what are called exacerbations, which are episodes when the disease suddenly worsens, these are usually caused by infection. These exacerbations result in a speeding up of the rate of decline of lung function as well as reduced quality of life and admission to hospital.”
Since there is currently no cure for it and due to the difficulties in treating the disease, Devereux seeks to test the use of low doses of a drug called theophylline, in conjunction with the inhaled steroids, through the study of laboratory and pre-clinical work. Theophylline is currently used for the treatment of the disease, however, it is needed in high doses to improve the opening of the airways.
“One of the problems with COPD is that current treatments are not terribly effective. Inhaled steroids, like those used to treat asthma, are used to tackle COPD,” Devereux explained. “But unlike their effectiveness with asthma, the airways of people with COPD are somewhat resistant to steroids and we have been using relatively high doses as a result.”
“We want to test the theory that low doses of theophylline will act on the airways, helping the inhaled steroids already used widely in COPD today to work far more effectively,” he added.
The study, which is supported by the Health Technology Assessment Programme, is looking to enroll about 1,400 volunteer patients, which will later answer a survey. “We want to recruit people with COPD who have had two or more chest infections exacerbations in the previous year to see if the combination of drugs can make a different to patients who really can have a poor quality of life,” the researcher said.
“Research is key to improving the lives of people affected by COPD and other lung diseases, which is why the BLF is supporting this major new research project and encouraging people living with COPD to get involved,” stated the Director of Operations and Innovation at the British Lung Foundation, Steven Wibberley, who is also involved in the study. “By doing so they could help improve care and find new effective treatment options for themselves, and patients throughout the country and beyond.”
In addition to Devereux, consultants from NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde, Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (Freeman hospital), Aintree University Hospital, Norfolk and Northwich University Hospital, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, Hull Royal Infirmary and South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust will also be working on the study.
“COPD is not only a major burden to the NHS in Scotland, but also a very painful and distressing condition for the people affected. CHSS is delighted to be supporting this imaginative study, which will hopefully produce real benefits to patients within a fraction of the time needed to develop and test new drugs, ” Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland Chief Executive David Clark added.