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University of Pittsburgh approach has lung recipients taking far fewer drugs

BOSTON, May 16 A lung transplant patient takes six pills a day, a regimen that is intended to safeguard the donor organ from immune system attack. But rejection plagues these patients more often and more vigorously than any other kind of organ recipient, so is it necessary that patients take that many pills? Not according to the experience of surgeons at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), where some lung transplant recipients are getting away with taking just one anti-rejection pill daily, and others just the one pill four or five times a week, with no ill effects.

Results of the novel clinical protocol were presented today by Kenneth R. McCurry, M.D., assistant professor of surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, at the American Transplant Congress (ATC), the joint scientific meeting of the American Society of Transplant Surgeons and the American Society of Transplantation.

With more than a year of follow-up in many patients, Dr. McCurry found that even those patients who have been able to reduce their medications to one pill a day benefit from the approach, which differs from the conventional twice-a-day triple-drug therapy, said Dr. McCurry.

"Bombarding the immune system with several very potent drugs has done little to improve the outcomes for lung transplant recipients, who continue to have poor survival about 75 percent at one year compared to other organ recipients. Moreover, the drugs have not done well to prevent chronic rejection, which affects about half of lung transplant patients by five years and usually results in organ failure and death. These bleak outcomes have motivated us to introduce an approach that we hope will enhance long-term survival, reduce the rates of complications associated with these drugs and improve quality of life," said Dr. McCurry, who also is director of lung and heart-lung transplantation at UPMC.

The approach is the only one of its kind involving lung t
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16-May-2004


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