The warning issued at the first World Congress on Lung Health and Respiratory Diseases in Florence, where 15000 specialists from 84 countries are gathering until Sept.3, are is clear: there are hundreds of medicines routinely prescribed against a variety of disorders, including high blood pressure, allergies, rheumatism, certain cancers or even common non-respiratory inflammations, that can cause all kinds of lung diseases. These accidents can happen within a very short time or after several years. They are mostly unpredictable and some are irreversible, leaving damaging after-effects.
This was revealed at a postgraduate course on iatrogenic lung diseases given by Professor Philippe Camus of the University Medical Centre of Dijon, who is also a member of the Clinical Assembly of the European Respiratory Society (ERS), organizer of the Congress.
The French physician told his audience that so far 310 therapeutic substances have been identified as having such iatrogenic effects. "This means the number is really much greater if you consider that each active principle in a preparation is usually marketed in several different forms. The problem was practically unknown 25 years ago, but it is now taking on alarming proportions", the French lung expert added.
Judging by the 4200 bibliographical references collected by the Dijon team, there are no less 50 different lung diseases and syndromes (ranging from simple coughs and breathlessness to pleurisies and even acute respiratory failures) that seem to be either caused or aggravated by medicines. And what is more, each year no less than 20 to 30 new therapeutic substances are being added to the list of suspect products.
Yet the information provided with the packaging hardly ever warns patients that the medicine could potentially cause a lung disorder, and there are still not many doctors who give the matter due thought when they prescribe a treatment.