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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is characterized by a neutrophilic airway inflammation that can be demonstrated by examination of induced sputum. Theophylline has antiinflammatory effects in asthma, and in the present study we investigated whether a similar effect occurs in COPD patients treated with low doses of theophylline. Twenty-five patients with COPD were treated with theophylline (plasma level of 9-11 mg/L) for 4 weeks in a placebo-controlled, randomized, double-blind crossover study. Theophylline was well tolerated. Induced sputum inflammatory cells, neutrophils, interleukin-8, myeloperoxidase, and lactoferrin were all significantly reduced by about 22% by theophylline. Neutrophils from subjects treated with theophylline showed reduced chemotaxis to N-formyl-met-leu-phe (approximately 28%) and interleukin-8 (approximately 60%). Neutrophils from a healthy donor showed reduced chemotaxis (approximately 30%) to induced sputum samples obtained during theophylline treatment. These results suggest that theophylline has antiinflammatory properties that may be useful in the long-term treatment of COPD.


Journal article


Am J Respir Crit Care Med

Publication Date





1371 - 1376


Aged, Chemotaxis, Leukocyte, Cross-Over Studies, Double-Blind Method, Drug Administration Schedule, Female, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Neutrophils, Probability, Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive, Reference Values, Sensitivity and Specificity, Severity of Illness Index, Spirometry, Sputum, Statistics, Nonparametric, Theophylline