Ibuprofen vs. emphysema? UNMC leads national study

Image with caption: Stephen Rennard, M.D.
Stephen Rennard, M.D.
UNMC will lead a clinical research study that will evaluate if a common, over-the-counter drug has potential to reverse the devastating effects of emphysema.

The phase II, three-year study funded for $4.4 million by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, will look at whether ibuprofen can reduce inflammation in the lungs. Ibuprofen is a non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drug commonly used to treat pain and swelling.

"Emphysema has been regarded as an irreversible type of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) involving damage to the air sacs in the lungs. But, in fact, it may be reversible," said Stephen Rennard, M.D., Larson Professor of Medicine in the Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine Section of the Department of Internal Medicine.

Dr. Rennard said current treatments -- medication, rehabilitation, and sometimes surgery -- can help with symptoms and can reduce exacerbations, but nothing yet can reverse the course of the disease.

"Recent studies support the concept that the ability of the lung to repair damage is suppressed. If you can remove the suppression, then maybe lungs can be repaired. This would be important and entirely new," said Dr. Rennard, principal investigator of the study and a recognized expert in COPD.

"Recent evidence indicates lung repair processes are diminished in COPD, partly due to increased levels of prostaglandin E. We know that ibuprofen blocks the production of prostaglandins. We want to know if it can block prostaglandins in the lung," Dr. Rennard said.

Study participants will take 600 milligrams of ibuprofen or a placebo three times a day. Researchers will measure inflammation and use biochemical techniques to determine the extent of lung repair that occurs. They also will compare previous CT scans and pulmonary function tests with results obtained before and after treatment.

If it works, researchers will seek approval to conduct a larger clinical study in patients.

UNMC will coordinate the study and analyze the data. Four other medical centers also are involved in the study. They will recruit 140 patients with emphysema who participated in a previous large NIH emphysema study. The medical centers are National Jewish Health in Denver, Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Temple University in Philadelphia and Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.


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darlene d darlene
July 07, 2018 at 7:35 PM

mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm Cannot find update on this hypothesis. How did things fare? I have emphysema and would love to know answer to my question/

Glen Wright
March 22, 2017 at 2:41 AM

My emphysema was rated severe in 2012. I had the upper right lobe of my lung removed for lung cancer in 2013. Since then, I been taking 600 mg 3 times a day (1800 per day) because of the cancer I have had ct scans of my lungs every 6 months and now yearly. the scans remain unchanged my FEVP1 has improved from 35% to 56% I moved from 5500ft to less than 100ft of altitude and have no had to use 02 at all. So scans are unchanged in three years and FEVP1 has improved.

Ray walsmith
November 24, 2016 at 11:26 PM

Isn't the three years up yet? When can we see the results of this study?

August 27, 2016 at 8:56 PM

Has anyone else here expierianced any change while doing this? Or am I just an anomaly?

August 18, 2016 at 10:53 PM

I'm on my 2 week break from ibuprophen, I take one every 2 months. I just slowly walked about 100 feet with out my oxygen, my ox dropped to 84 my pulse went to 99. After some deep breathing to bring my oxy up breathing normally I stayed at 90 to 91 with no oxygen use. I have observed I don't see a gain while I'm taking it, then when I take my break I notice a slight gain after a week. I am a Christian, I have been combining prayer, ibuprophen, vitamins and a high protein diet. I don't care what it is that is working as long as I continue to improve. I give the glory to God because even if he isn't directly repairing my lungs, he led me to find the information to help myself. This is not taking anything from the doctors, it was their hard work that made this possible. Thank you Dr.Rennard.

May 31, 2016 at 4:44 AM

I am currious if ibuprophen delivered by an inhaler or nebuliser might be more effective?

May 14, 2016 at 3:16 PM

I have been taking 1,800 mg a day along with vitamins and extra vitamin A and B-12 for over two years. I seem to have improved slightly. Before resting with no Oxygen my pulse would go to 100 and my 02 would drop to 78%. Now with out ox my pulse will be 72 and my levels will be about 83%. At 2 lpm from the bottle my ox rate used to be 91resting now it's 94 resting. This appears to be working at a slow snails pace. But a little improvement is world's better than getting worse and I would like to thank the doctors that made this possible. Sincerely, Ray

January 06, 2016 at 6:14 AM

I think this will work for inflammation, and open air ways. Ibuprofen treats inflammation in other parts of the body. They must have had some success in phase 1 or they would not be doing phase 11 for 4.4 million dollars.

Delores Wells
November 22, 2015 at 9:52 PM

can't see that will help, I have copd, and I took ibuprofen 600 mg a day didn't help my copd, but it did give me all these noises in my ears.

gary lucas
November 22, 2015 at 4:21 PM

Hey I'll participate! NSAID's really work for me, and I'm diagnosed with COPD too by golly. Aint I lucky?

Ray Walsmith
June 17, 2015 at 2:44 AM

Do the doctors or researchers ever comment here?

Ray Walsmith
June 03, 2015 at 1:38 AM

Ray Walsmith. Update, I don't think I have improved any, but I don't think I've gotten any worse either. If this helps me to hold my ground it is valuable as I was told I would get progressively worse and probably be dead in two to three years, that was back in Sept of 2013. I've been taking 600mg three times a day for a total of 1,800mg a day. I have also been taking bosch and lombe A-REDS for the vitamin A and other vitamins. I had hoped to improve, but not getting worse is a wonderful thing too. I think it is going to take an inhaled growth factor to stimulate the formation of blood capillaries for this to reverse this disease. Any adventuresome Doctors need a guinea pig or lab rat? I would love to get my hands on some hepatocyte growth factor and inhale it with a nebulizer. Think that would reverse this disease.

Michael Andrews
April 06, 2015 at 2:08 PM

Hello Ray and Bramsay Can you update your findings all? Hopefully with good news. I too have copd and hope it could hep me too.

Jean golden
January 04, 2015 at 6:24 PM

Does Advil damage the liver or lungs to people with mild alpha -1

Ray Walsmith
December 19, 2014 at 10:28 PM

Has anybody ever tried a hepatocyte growth factor inhaler along with ibuprofen and vitamin A?

Ray Walsmith
December 19, 2014 at 10:23 PM

Have they noticed any results from this yet. I have been doing this since March 2014 and I think it may be helping slightly, but not much, I take a two week break every 3 month to recover from the ibuprofen. It's hard to be objective, my md told me my lungs sounded better the other day than they have in years.

August 14, 2014 at 1:19 PM

Is it 600 milligrams 3 x a day or 600 milligrams a day? Bramsay, you said you were taking 600 mg "TID" is that per day or per dose?

August 04, 2014 at 2:04 PM

Isn't 1800 milligrams a day dangerous to some organ or other? Liver?

July 19, 2014 at 8:59 PM

Bramsay: also find this info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acute_pericarditis and it states: The preferred NSAID is ibuprofen because of rare side effects, better effect on coronary flow, and larger dose range

July 19, 2014 at 8:53 PM

Bramsay: I just am reading about ibuprofen for the first time. Are you still using it? I am searching for that one thing that the doctors won't tell us.

April 08, 2014 at 7:49 AM

I have advanced COPD diagnosed several years ago. I have been taking ibuprofen 200 mg TID since early March 2014 (about five weeks now). I have found significant reduction in respiratory mucus which has meant better breathing and motility for me. Now I find that ibuprofen is linked to increased incidence of coronary thrombotic episodes. Don't know what to do now. Ya' can't win can ya'.

Ernie Laczo
November 18, 2013 at 8:42 PM

I hope there is Help for us I more than willing to try it Kewldesign@hotmail.com Good luck with hope

caroline gillissen
November 13, 2013 at 3:58 AM

Will people with Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency be excluded from this study of NSAID use to treat emphysema? NSAID's are thought to increase liver injury in Alpha-1 http://alpha-1foundation.org/alpha-1-and-liver-disease/liver-disease-qa/ .

Myron L. Toews, PhD
November 12, 2013 at 12:20 PM

Dr. Rennard was UNMC's first Scientist Laureate. His selection by NIH to lead this new national study provides additional evidence that he is indeed a scientist worthy of laurels! Let's hope the treatment does in fact work!

The reseach team

Other members of the UNMC research team include:
  • Kendra Schmid, Ph.D.
  • Amy Nelson
  • Harlan Sayles
  • Matt Anderson
  • Yazen Alnouti, Ph.D.
  • Tricia LeVan, Ph.D.