Interstitial Lung Disease: Medicines

Man taking pills in kitchen.Interstitial lung disease is group of conditions with inflammation and scarring around the tiny air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs. The changes make it hard to take in oxygen. Often doctors do not know the cause. This is called idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. Known causes are conditions like sarcoidosis and rheumatoid arthritis. You can also get it from breathing in certain things like mold or asbestos. Some medicines and radiation treatments can also cause interstitial lung disease.

Medicines may be prescribed to help reduce inflammation and stop more scarring. Take all medicines as instructed by your healthcare provider. Talk with your provider or pharmacist if you have questions or concerns about your medicines.


Medicines that reduce inflammation or the immune system's reaction may be prescribed for some people with interstitial lung disease. But they don't work for everyone. In fact, newer therapies that lessen fibrosis or scarring have been recently been introduced. They are called pirfenidone and nintedanib. They are only used for people with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and are not considered a cure for the disease. However, their use may slow the worsening of the fibrosis and lung scarring.

Until recently, the medicines below were used for pulmonary fibrosis. They are rarely used anymore or used with caution:

  • Prednisone

  • Azathioprine

  • Cyclophosphamide

Your healthcare provider may prescribe more than one of these medicines. They may have serious side effects. Talk with your provider about what to expect if you take these medicines.

Taking medicines

Try these tips to prevent problems with your medicines:

  • Take your medicine as you were told to, at the same time each day. Make it a habit.

  • Don’t run out of medicine. Order more while you still have at least a week’s supply left. Give yourself more time if you order by mail.

  • Take your medicines with you when you travel. If you check your luggage at the airport, be sure to keep your medicines with you, and not in your checked bags.

  • Buy all of your medicines at the same drugstore or pharmacy, if you can.

  • Get a pill organizer with sections for the days of the week and times of day. Fill it once a week. Keep it in a place that will remind you to take your medicine. If you need help organizing your medicines, ask a family member or friend.

  • Talk with your healthcare provider if you have trouble paying for your medicines. He or she may be able to prescribe less expensive medicines. And he or she may have free samples.

Make a list of all your medicines. This includes herbs and other supplements. Keep the list handy:

  • Show the list to all of your healthcare providers and pharmacist.

  • Include the name of the medicine and why you take it. Write down how much you take and when you take it.

  • Change your list if your medicines change.

  • Keep a copy of the list in your wallet or purse.