Many people question whether antibiotics should be used to combat exacerbations of COPD. The uncertainty stems from the growing desire to use antibiotics only when necessary, combined with the recognition that up to one third of exacerbations of COPD have are not caused by infections, and some others are due to viral infections.
A large number of trials have been conducted to try and address this situation, but a simple comparison suggests that the data is contradictory.
To clarify the situation the Cochrane Review Authors performed a systematic review of available data, and identified 11 trials involving 917 patients.
"The review showed clearly that antibiotic therapy, regardless of which antibiotic was used, reduced the risks involved in an exacerbation, and as might be expected, the effects is greatest in patients with more severe disease," says lead Review Author Dr Felix Ram, Senior Lecturer in Respiratory Medicine & Clinical Pharmacology in the School of Health Sciences, at Massey University in Auckland, New Zealand.
"The controversy over whether antibiotics should be prescribed to patients with acute exacerbations of COPD has been very highly debated and unsolved for many years in the respiratory field and this review will help to finally resolve this long outstanding issue in the management of our COPD patients," adds Dr Ram.
Review Title: Ram FSF et. al. Antibiotics for exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2006, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD004403.pub2. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD004403.pub2.