In Australia, there are currently two anti-fibrotic medications available to treat Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF). For people living with mild to moderate IPF (as judged by lung function tests), these treatments have been shown to slow down the progression of fibrosis within the lungs.
While IPF will still progress over time, using pirfenidone or nintedanib may help slow or delay this progression. Both treatments are subsidised by the Australian government for people with IPF who meet certain eligibility criteria.
Side effects are relatively common with anti-fibrotic medications but are usually mild and almost always completely resolve if treatment is ceased.
The most common side effect people may experience is diarrhoea, which occurred in over half of the participants in clinical trials of this medication. Generally, it tends to be mild (less than four motions per day), although an anti-diarrhoea medication is sometimes needed. Other gastrointestinal side effects that occur less frequently include nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite. Liver function can be affected by nintedanib (in about 5% of participants in the clinical trials) and is monitored by regular blood tests.
The most common side effect of this medication is nausea, which occurred in about a third of participants in clinical trials of this medication. Other gastrointestinal side effects that occur less frequently include indigestion, loss of appetite, vomiting and weight loss. About a third of people may also experience rash from exposure to the sun. Liver function can also be affected by pirfenidone (in about 4% of participants in the clinical trials) and is monitored by regular blood tests.
Managing side effects
Speak with your healthcare team about ways to best avoid or manage any side effects you may experience. Your healthcare team may change the dosage of your treatment, suggest trying anti-nausea or anti-diarrhoea medication or dietary changes. Each person will have individual differences with side effects, so some trial and error may be involved. Work with your healthcare team to develop the best plan for you.
NOTE: The above information is a general overview of some of the treatments your specialist doctor can offer for PF. Please note, this information is not medical advice. Some treatments may be right for some people, but no particular treatment is right for everyone.
This information comes from our Life with Pulmonary Fibrosis resource, developed in collaboration with the Centre of Research Excellence in Pulmonary Fibrosis. This resource contains information for people living with PF and their carers, on the diagnosis of PF, self-management and living well.
If you would like to access a free hard copy of the booklet, please contact our Information and Support centre on 1800 654 301.
To access a free, downloadable copy of the booklet, follow the link below.