COPDVitamin D

Treating COPD with vitamin D

Low vitamin D levels are associated with reduced lung function (FEV1), impaired immunologic control, and increased airway inflammation.

Many patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have vitamin D deficiency. So, researchers at the University Hospitals Leuven, in Belgium, studied whether supplementation with high doses of vitamin D could reduce the incidence of COPD exacerbations.

First, the details.

  • 182 patients with moderate to very severe COPD and a history of recent exacerbations were assigned to a treatment group for a year.
    • 100,000 IU of vitamin D supplementation every 4 weeks
    • Placebo
  • The main outcome measured was time to first exacerbation.
  • In addition, exacerbation rate, time to first hospitalization, time to second exacerbation, FEV1 (forced expiratory volume in 1 second), quality of life, and death were recorded.
  • Neither the patients nor researchers knew the treatment given — double blind.

And, the results.

  • Average 25-(OH)D levels increased significantly in the vitamin D group vs the placebo group.
  • The time to first exacerbation did not significantly differ between the groups, nor did exacerbation rates, FEV1, hospitalization, quality of life, and death.
  • However, in 30 participants with severe vitamin D deficiency (less than 10 ng/mL) before treatment there was a significant reduction in exacerbations in the vitamin D group.

The bottom line?

The authors concluded, “High-dose vitamin D supplementation in a sample of patients with COPD did not reduce the incidence of exacerbations. In participants with severe vitamin D deficiency at baseline, supplementation may reduce exacerbations.”

Confirmation in patients with severe vitamin D deficiency is needed.

1/18/12 22:36 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.