MONDAY, June 29 (HealthDay News) -- Treatment with interferon gamma-1b (Ifn-g1b) does not improve survival in people with a fatal lung disease called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, according to a study that was halted early after no benefit to participants was found.
Previous research had suggested that Ifn-g1b might benefit people with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, particularly those with mild to moderate disease.
The new study included 826 people, ages 40 to 79, who lived in Europe and North America. They were given injections of either 200 micrograms of Ifn-g1b (551 people) or a placebo (275) three times a week.
After a median of 64 weeks, 15 percent of those in the Ifn-g1b group and 13 percent in the placebo group had died. Symptoms such as flu-like illness, fatigue, fever and chills were more common among those in the Ifn-g1b group than in the placebo group. The two groups had similar rates of serious side effects, the researchers found.
"We cannot recommend treatment with interferon gamma-1b since the drug did not improve survival for patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, which refutes previous findings from subgroup analyses of survival in studies of patients with mild-to-moderate physiological impairment of pulmonary function," Dr. Talmadge E. King Jr., of the University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues wrote in the study published online and in an upcoming print issue of The Lancet.
The negative findings of this study "should be regarded as definite, [but] they should not discourage patients to participate in one of the several clinical trials currently underway to find effective treatments for this devastating disease," Dr. Demosthenes Bouros, of the Democritus University of Thrace in Greece, wrote in an accompanying editorial.
Bouros added that people deemed suitable "should be enrolled early in the transplantation list, which is today the only mode of treatment that prolongs survival."
The U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute has more about idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
SOURCE: The Lancet, news release, June 29, 2009