Published in the April issue of the International Journal of Clinical Practice, the research showed that the flu vaccine was particularly advantageous in patients with severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

“Most of the healthcare costs associated with COPD are due to problems that worsen the condition and infections caused by the influenza virus are major culprits,” says Balakrishnan Menon, MD, lead author of the study from the University of Delhi, India.

The all-male group of patients involved in the study had an average age of 65 and were all diagnosed with COPD. Previous to the study, none of them had received the flu vaccination. During the study, patients received the flu vaccine and were tracked for the following year.

Although the effectiveness of the vaccine varied depending on how badly patients suffered from the disease, the overall incidence of acute respiratory illness and acute exacerbation of COPD fell by 67% after patients received the vaccine.  Previous to the vaccine, 24 of the men experienced acute respiratory illness and acute exacerbation of COPD, while only 8 experienced them following the vaccination.

The World Health Organization recommends that all COPD patients receive the flu vaccine each year, although the vaccine is not used as frequently as it should be in these patients. This could be leading to much higher incidence of respiratory problems and extra, avoidable, health care costs.