Pharmacologic Treatments for Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis

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This chronic disease has historically lacked an effective treatment option, but the FDA recently approved two: pirfenidone and nintedanib. This discussion of these new drug therapies—including mechanism of action, study results, and adverse effects—could help your patients catch their breath.




  • Confirming the diagnosis
  • Pirfenidone treatment
  • Nintedanib treatment

A 64-year-old man has a one-year history of dyspnea on exertion and a nonproductive cough. His symptoms are gradually worsening and increasingly bothersome to him.

His medical history includes mild seasonal allergies and GERD, which is well-controlled by oral antihistamines and proton pump inhibitors. He has spent the past 30 years working a desk job as an accountant. He denies a history of smoking, exposure to secondhand smoke, and initiation of new medication.

He admits to increased fatigue, but denies fever, chills, lymphadenopathy, weight change, chest pain, wheezing, abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, claudication, and swelling in the extremities. The rest of the review of systems is negative.

Lab results—complete blood count, comprehensive metabolic panel, TSH, antinuclear antibodies, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, and C-reactive protein—are within normal limits. Spirometry shows very mild restriction. A chest x-ray is abnormal but nonspecific, showing peripheral opacities. An ECG shows normal sinus rhythm.

The patient is given a trial of an inhaled steroid, which yields no improvement. Six months later, the patient is seen by a pulmonologist. Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is diagnosed based on high-resolution CT (HRCT) and lung biopsy results.

IPF is a chronic, progressive, fibrosing interstitial disease that is limited to lung tissue. It most commonly manifests in older adults with vague symptoms of dyspnea on exertion and nonproductive cough, but symptoms can also include fatigue, muscle and joint aches, clubbing of the fingernails, and weight loss.1 The average life expectancy following diagnosis of IPF is two to five years, and the mortality rate is estimated at 64.3 per million men and 58.4 per million women per year.2,3

Continue to: DIAGNOSIS


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