Help for Persistent Cough

Taking iron supplements may help prevent a cough associated with taking angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, say researchers in Korea.

ACE inhibitors, a class of drugs that help prevent kidney disease and control high blood pressure, can cause coughing due to build up of nitric oxide in a person’s lungs, explained researchers. Publishing their findings in the August issue of Hypertension, researchers showed that taking iron supplements helps prevent this side effect.

Dr. S.C. Lee and colleagues at the Samsung Medical Center at the Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine in Seoul, South Korea, conducted a double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial on 19 patients who had a cough caused by using ACE inhibitors. After a two-week observation, subjects were given either a 256-mg dose of iron once a day in the morning or a placebo, for a total of four weeks. Subjects filled out a daily diary rating the severity of their cough on a scale of zero to four. The cough scores during the last week, changes in blood cell count and blood and protein iron levels were measured before and after taking the supplements.

Cough scores lowered significantly more in the group that took iron (1.69 rating) than in the group that did not (2.35 rating). No significant changes in blood cell count or iron levels were found between the groups.

Researchers conclude with confidence that "iron supplementation successfully decreases ACE inhibitor-induced cough." They note that the result may be caused by less production of nitric oxide in the lungs.

Editor’s note: More research is needed to confirm findings. Check with a physician before changing medication therapy.

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