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Boehringer Ingelheim and GSK, companies with a strong heritage in COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and a commitment to improved patient care, have today announced their support of The European Federation of Allergy and Airways Diseases Patients Associations (EFA) call for urgent improvement in the care of people with COPD.
To coincide with World COPD Day 2009, EFA has published a comprehensive overview of COPD in Europe, the EFA Book on COPD in Europe: Sharing and Caring which highlights local successes and serious shortfalls in the way the disease is diagnosed and managed.
COPD is a chronic lung disease associated with a high level of mortality. According to the latest World Health Orgainzation (WHO) estimates, 210 million people suffer from COPD and it currently ranks as the fourth leading cause of death. However, the WHO predicts that it will become the third leading cause of death worldwide by 2030. In 2005 COPD was estimated to have killed over 3 million people more than HIV/AIDS or lung and breast cancer combined.
Despite this, COPD remains a scarcely known, under-diagnosed and under-treated disease that demands a changed approach to diagnosis and treatment. Fewer than half of patients with the condition have a proper diagnosis and only 35% of patients receive a regular prescribed medication.
These issues, among others, have been highlighted by EFA who collected European data for the first time from patient groups perspectives and are now calling for more to be done to reduce the burden of COPD and improve patient care. Over 11 million Europeans are affected by COPD and face its debilitating consequences on a daily basis.
EFAs book recognises that even in its early stages, COPD has a devastating impact on patients quality of life as it begins to damage the lungs irreversibly causing sufferers to struggle for breath and with simple daily tasks. In addition, patients are frustrated about the difficulty in gaining effective management of their condition including early diagnosis, education, support services and access to the best treatments available. The goal of EFAs efforts in the coming months will be to reduce the impact of COPD on patients and their caregivers and to focus efforts on a call to action for real improvements.
BI and GSK, who sponsored the project, support EFAs conclusion that there is an urgent need for a coordinated strategy of advocacy both at European and national level. To improve overall COPD management, the following four areas of focus were identified:
Increase the awareness of the public at large about COPD, its symptoms and risk factors in order to prevent the disease and to encourage sufferers to seek early diagnosis
Raise the priority of COPD with policy makers to encourage the creation of screening guidelines and mandates for early diagnosis and management of the disease