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Hui Xin Ong - Making medication for chronic lung conditions more effective

How the order and timing of taking medication can improve treatment for people with cystic fibrosis, COPD and bronchiectasis

Project background

The chronic lung conditions cystic fibrosis (CF), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and bronchiectasis (BE) produce thick sticky mucus within the lungs, that is difficult to clear. The mucus traps bacteria in the lungs resulting in cycles of infection and inflammation that can cause permanent damage to the lungs and shorten life expectancy.

People with these chronic lung conditions often need to take medication, known as a mucoactive agent, to help clear the mucus from the lungs, as well as taking antibiotics that they breathe in with an inhaler to treat lung infections.

The drugs are usually given with the goal of keeping high levels of antibiotics in the lungs so that the lungs are protected for as long as possible and the medication can be taken as infrequently as possible.

However, there are no evidence-based guidelines on when these drugs should be given and in which order. There is also very little information available on the effects of these drugs being taken together and if the order that they are taken in makes them more or less effective.

What is the project?

Our previous research using an model of the lungs, has found that taking the mucoactive drug, mannitol, before an antibiotic could significantly increase the length of time the antibiotics stay in the lungs, before they are cleared out by the mucus.

The next step is to prove that this order of taking the medication works in people as well as in the model.

Our new project will aim to understand the effects of sequence and timing of two drugs (including mannitol):

Why is the project important for people with lung conditions and healthcare professionals?

The research is tackling a major problem in treating chronic lung conditions. The idea of changing the sequence and timing of taking drugs that are already licensed for use will change the way that healthcare professionals prescribe drugs, to make them more effective.

For people with lung conditions, it will be easier to keep to the treatment regime, as medication can be taken less frequently and give better relief from symptoms without the need for new drug development.