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Inhalers prescribed for serious lung disease could kill one in 40 long-term users, according to researcher published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
Anticholinergic drugs in the inhalers reportedly increase the risk of a heart attack, cardiovascular death or stroke by nearly 60%.
The inhalers help people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which caused 2,700 deaths in the UK in 2004 and is projected to be the world’s fifth biggest killer by 2020.
The authors said: “Inhaled anticholinergic use for more than 30 days significantly increases the risk of cardiovascular death, myocardial infarction or stroke in patients with COPD by approximately 58%.”
The research was carried out by experts from the Wake Forest University School of Medicine in North Carolina and Dr Yoon Loke, from the University of East Anglia in Norwich.
Dr Loke said more than two million prescriptions for the inhalers were issued in England last year, most to people who have been heavy smokers and therefore at heightened risk of heart attacks.
He said: “There are alternatives. If you know that your inhaler contains anticholinergics, my advice would be to ask your doctor to prescribe a different inhaler.”
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