In a recent study, researchers found that the toxic effects on the lung of drugs commonly taken to treat a range of common conditions are much more widespread than thought.
The team examined 27 drugs from 6,200 patients’ data in 156 papers.
These drugs treat a range of conditions including arthritis, cancer and heart disease.
They are successful for most patients, but the team suggests people need to be more aware of the potential risks to their respiratory systems.
The research is part of a €24 million project funded by the European Union and the European pharmaceutical industry’s Innovative Medicine Initiative which is developing imaging techniques for the management of drug-induced interstitial lung disease (DIILD).
It is co-led by EORTC and Bioxydyn Ltd, a University of Manchester spin-out company.
Though DIILD can cause difficulty breathing, inflammation, and fibrosis, the risk sometimes only becomes apparent after the drugs have been in use for some years.
Though the team says clinicians are hindered because most of the papers they reviewed were of low or very low quality.
Between 4.1 and 12.4 million cases of DIILD per year were reported worldwide accord to the review.
And the review also found that DIILD accounted for around 3-5% of all interstitial lung disease cases.
In some of the studies, mortality rates of over 50% were reported and overall, 25% of all the patients studied died as a result of respiratory symptoms.
Steroids were the most common drug used to treat DIILD, but no studies examined their effect on the outcome.
The researchers suggest though this area is not well researched, the side effects of drugs on the lung are much more widespread than previously thought.
It’s important to stress that patients can safely continue to take their medication—but it’s also important that doctors monitor and assess them closely for side effects in the lung.
Doctors need to be aware and vigilant to the possible lung toxicities and harm that can be caused by some drugs.
With newer drugs coming on the market this is an increasing yet under recognized problem and we need better ways of detecting these side effects before they cause harm.
The research was carried out by academics at the Universities of Manchester, Leeds, and Sheffield as well as clinicians at NIHR Manchester Biomedical Research Centre, Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC).
John Waterton, a Professor of Translational Imaging from The University of Manchester, was on the research team.
The study is published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine.
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Source: Journal of Clinical Medicine.