Researchers in China say Spiriva (tiotropium) might be able to slow early lung function decline in COPD if used in conjunction with standard inhaler therapy.

In 388 volunteers with the mildest forms of the disease who were treated with tiotropium, lung capacity declined by an average of 38 mL per year, compared with a 53-mL decline among 383 placebo recipients, researchers reported in The New England Journal of Medicine.

The findings need to be confirmed, but if they are, it could finally give doctors a treatment for the disease to delay late symptoms, Dr. MeiLan Han, a spokeswoman for the American Lung Association, told Reuters Health in a telephone interview.