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Nicotine patch not just for smokers, could treat sarcoidosis

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Created to help smokers quit, the nicotine patch may have another purpose — treating patients who suffer from a chronic lung disease, such as sarcoidosis.

A growth of inflammatory cells, most likely triggered by inhaling pesticides or other toxic materials, sarcoidois can cause severe lung damage and even death if it doesn’t go away on its own.

Traditionally, sarcoidosis is treated with steroids, but long-term use can cause severe side effects, including high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and diabetes.

So, researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center conducted a small three-month clinical trial using nicotine patches as a treatment for sarcoidosis. After seeing promising results, they’ve launched a larger randomized trial that will dig deeper into whether nicotine patches can be a long-term solution for managing the disease.

“When we examine the data, we hope to find that the nicotine patches help stop or even reverse the growth of sarcoidosis cells,” said Dr. Elliott Crouser, who is leading the clinical trial. “And because nicotine is a stimulant, patients also get a secondary benefit. Extreme fatigue is the most common symptom of sarcoidosis, and the patches help them get through their day with more energy.”

The trial will last six months and researchers will use CAT scans along with a newly-developed computer analysis system measure the amount of sarcoidosis in patients’ bodies.

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