Physician Update on Respiratory Disease Treatment: Inhaled Corticosteroids vs. Oral Antibiotics

Posted on September 12, 2018   |   
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This blog post was written by Beth McKnight, Patient Advocate, with the help of a Patient Advisory Panel.

Researchers at Oregon Health and Science University have found that long-term treatment of respiratory diseases with inhaled corticosteroid drugs actually increases the risk of serious lung infections.

The study, presented at the 2018 American Thoracic Society International Conference, focused on adult patients with bronchiectasis, whose bronchial tubes are thickened from inflammation and infection, preventing the clearing of mucus. Bronchiectasis, most accurately diagnosed by a CT scan, is on the rise in the U.S.

Dr. Emily Henkle, presenting author, said the team found that inhaled corticosteroid use increased the risk of hospitalized infections, and no evidence exists that they prevent exacerbations or progression of the disease. The study examined Medicare data from 90,000 patients who used either inhaled corticosteroids or the oral antibiotics azithromycin and erythromycin. The study found an increased 39% risk in the corticosteroid group as compared the group taking the oral antibiotics.

However, Dr. Henkle cautioned, potential risks exists with taking just one antibiotic long-term, such as the development of antibiotic resistant bacterial lung diseases like Mycobacterium aviumcomplex (MAC or MAI) and other nontuberculous mycobacterial infections.

What does this mean for physicians who treat patients with bronchiectasis and other lung diseases?

Since bronchiectasis patients often can have other lung diseases, a patient committee involved in the Oregon study recommends that physicians:

  1. Broaden their knowledge base of bronchiectasis and mycobacterial lung diseases like MAC and MAI.
  2. Take a second, thorough look at all of a patient’s medications and medication history before beginning any treatment.
  3. Use caution when prescribing corticosteroids long-term for any respiratory disease.
  4. Test for nontuberculous mycobacteria before long-term use of oral antibiotic azithromycin.
  5. Help patients understand the complexity of their disease and treatment, and empower them to manage their disease.
  6. Refer these patients, as appropriate, to medical centers specializing in the treatment of bronchiectasis and mycobacterial lung diseases.


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  • I really love the advice from the study. The information is good. It makes me realize there are some risk on taking corticosteroid or single antibiotics. Yes indeed bronchiectasis is complex. Hopefully it will make me more humble.
    • Hello! Yes, there are risk using corticosteroids; some people develop a habit of using them as a crutch even when they are not absolutely necessary. Preventive measures , stress management and good nutrition are key to avoiding recurrent infections. I realize that there are many infections we just simply cannot avoid; however, we must work in doing everything within our power to prevent infections. We can remind and encourage one another, via this site to be compliant.
  • Four years ago I experienced a severe breathing and wheezing problem that my doctor diagnosed as chronic bronchitis with dust allergy. A year later, it worsened and I was diagnosed of COPD. I came across Herbal HealthPoint (ww w. herbalhealthpoint. c om) December, 2018 and learnt about their successful herbal therapy for COPD. I immediately started on the COPD treatment; few weeks into the treatment, i began to notice a reduction in symptoms till it all vanished. I feel better and breath better.
  • What are the inhaled corticosteroid medicines? Does this include Amakacin and AriKayce?

    • Susan,
      Below is a list of corticosteroids: