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Still no treatment for lung disease


A drug developed using a purified human protein made from E coli is ineffective at treating the fatal lung disease idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), a study has shown.

IPF is characterised by worsening shortness of breath, reduced lung volume, and impaired gas exchange in the membranes of the lungs. It is not known what causes IPF and there are currently no effective treatments for the disease.

The study, published online in the Lancet, looked at the effects of treating IPF with interferon gamma-1b (Ifn-g1b). Previous studies suggest that giving IPF patients Ifn-g1b could be of possible benefit, particularly for those with mild to moderate forms of the disease.

Researchers from the University of California in San Francisco, US, studied 826 patients with IPF from 81 centres in nine European and North American countries. Patients aged 40 to 70 were given 200 µg Ifn-g1b (551 patients) or equivalent placebo (275) subcutaneously, three times per week.

The findings showed that after 64 weeks, 15% of Ifn-1b patients had died versus 13% on the placebo. The trial was eventually stopped after it was found that Ig1b offered no benefit.

Lead author Professor Talmadge E King Jr said: “We cannot recommend treatment with interferon gamma-1b since the drug did not improve survival for patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, which refutes previous findings from subgroup analyses of survival in studies of patients with mild to moderate physiological impairment of pulmonary function.”

Copyright Press Association 2009

University of California, San Francisco

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