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The Long-Term Oxygen Treatment Trial

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The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) today, announced the publication of the long awaited results from the Long-Term Oxygen Treatment Trial (LOTT) in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Long-term oxygen treatment has already been shown to improve survival and reduce hospitalizations in those with COPD and severely low levels of blood oxygen (i.e. if your saturation rate is equal to or less than 88 percent at rest). Oxygen treatment may also be prescribed if COPD patients have a “moderately low” oxygen saturation rest that falls below 90% with activity or when sleeping. Until now, there was little research that told us whether or not oxygen for this moderate group with moderately low saturation levels at rest (between 89-93 percent) and below 90 percent with activity was beneficial.

LOTT enrolled 738 people with COPD who had moderately low oxygen saturation levels at rest or during activity in a randomized clinical trial where half of the group was prescribed oxygen treatment and half was not. The study found that on average, the patients who were prescribed oxygen treatment received no additional benefit to survival, hospitalizations, worsening symptoms or to quality of life. That means that based on this study, for most COPD patients with moderately low levels of oxygen saturation, oxygen use is not beneficial. At first glance it is easy to be surprised by these results, especially as it relates to those patients who use oxygen during activity. You may fall into this group and find it hard to imagine getting on that treadmill in the morning to get in your steps without sliding on your oxygen.

While researchers, clinicians and we at the COPD Foundation take some time to examine the LOTT publication released this evening, the MOST important thing to know is that the study examined GROUP effect. That means that it measured an average effect for all those in the study and was NOT intended to assess individual responses to oxygen treatment. The decision whether to start oxygen treatment is one that should be an informed, shared decision with your healthcare provider.

Another thing to cross off the list of immediate worries is whether your oxygen will still be reimbursed by CMS. The coverage for oxygen treatment should not change as a result of this study, as current coverage already includes those whose saturation falls below 90% with activity. CMS has indicated that it does not have intentions of reevaluating their coverage standards. We will be sure to reach out to CMS as we digest the LOTT publication to ensure that they understand the importance of continuing to provide flexibility in oxygen coverage and hope that others who pay for healthcare follow their lead.

Lastly, the LOTT publication reinforces the need for investing in COPD research and public health efforts that will help prevent COPD, improve the quality of care for patients and speed the development of new treatments and one day a cure. The COPD National Action Plan will be our platform for seeking those changes over the coming years. We hope you will join us and lend your voice as advocacy activities kick off after the Plan is launched early next year.

You can read more about the LOTT results on the NHLBI website here. Let us know what questions you have as you read more about the study’s results and we will be sure to work with our research and clinical advisors to answer them throughout the week.


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  • I think it's good to have a study to assess our oxygen at rest, at exertion and sleep. From the oxymeter, my oxygen saturation at rest is 93. I never have a study to assess my oxygen. I asked my doctor about this and he said that too much oxygen can "harm" you..
  • There are a lot of issues about the trial protocol and how patients were selected, which make it difficult to determine how useful the results are to apply to the general population of COPD patients. It is clear that using pulse oximeters are useful tools in being sure to remain properly saturated at all times and avoid health risks that can be associated with being poorly saturated. It is expected that more discussion about this study and results will be released over time, as the study did cover 42 different centers.
    • Curious, what were the issues with the study or is that what will be coming out in due time.

    • clipper - here's a link to the complete study:

  • thank you Karen

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