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The results of a study published in The Lancet this week show that mucolytic drug carbocisteine can help to slow the worsening of symptoms in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and should be recognised as a treatment for the condition.
A team of researchers in China undertook a randomised controlled trial to assess whether carbocisteine could reduce the yearly exacerbation rate in patients with COPD.
Over seven hundred patients from 22 centres in China with COPD aged between 40 and 80 years, with a history of at least two COPD exacerbations in the previous two years and who had remained clinically stable in the four weeks before the study.
Patients were randomised to receive either 1500mg carbocisteine per day or a placebo for a whole year.
Numbers of exacerbations declined by 25% in the carbocisteine group compared with the placebo group.
The authors conclude: “Mucolytics, such as carbocisteine should be recognised as a worthwhile treatment for prevention of exacerbations in Chinese patients with COPD.”
They add that this much cheaper treatment could be vital for treating COPD in developing countries.