• National COPD Conference
  • The first National COPD Conference was exciting! Held November 14-15 in Arlington, Virginia, it was attended by more than 500 patients, health care professionals, and well known physicians. Also there, were representatives of organizations such as ALA (American Lung Association), ATS (American Thoracic Society), ACCP (American College of Chest Physicians), AACVPR (American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation) and, very importantly, representatives from the government. Mary Burns represented PERF, the Pulmonary Education & Research Foundation. There were many others, too many to name, who were there representing other patient groups. How wonderful to renew old acquaintances or finally meet these folks we knew only through email communications! If only you could feel the surge of warmth, excitement and energy in those rooms when all these terrific people came together.
  • Rear Admiral Christina Beato, MD, Acting Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services is the principal advisor on health policy and medical and scientific matters to Secretary Tommy Thompson. She said that Health and Human Services will focus more on disease prevention in the future. Medicare reimbursement for preventative and early diagnosis screenings with spirometry are going to be looked at and probably considered as a standard of care, as mammograms and flu shots already are. What does this mean? It sounds like the Feds will start reimbursing diagnostic screening with spirometry in the near future. About one half of those afflicted don't even know that they have a problem; COPD usually is not diagnosed until half of lung function is lost. Can you believe that in addition to the 14 million diagnosed with COPD there are probably more than 10 to 16 million undiagnosed? With better screening techniques it is hoped that these unidentified individuals can be found and helped. (Did you know that abnormal spirometry is a marker for many diseases besides COPD?) Early detection of COPD with spirometry is something that Dr. Tom Petty has been fighting to achieve for many years. What wonderful news for him, and for all of us.
  • More active management of COPD using evidence-based guidelines is also going to be emphasized. The majority of patients see a primary care physician. These doctors often miss the signs of COPD until it reaches an advanced stage. By using guidelines, it is hoped that more patients will receive treatment at an earlier stage. It was suggested that these guidelines be given to patients, as are those for asthma.
  • Did you know that COPD costs 30 billion dollars a year in medical costs? As the pie chart to the left shows, a large fraction of the direct costs of COPD are spent on hospitalizations for exacerbations. The number of exacerbations a patient has is, of course, associated with mortality. Three months after getting sick many patients have not yet returned to their baseline. And yet, only 50% of patients get their annual flu shot. Preventing exacerbations is important to survival!
  • The importance of spirometry for early identification, and the need for smoking cessation, was stressed by all speakers at the meeting. 90% of COPD is caused by smoking. The other causes include alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, and (perhaps) low birth weight and frequent childhood infections. Scientists, however, are beginning to find genetic links in addition to alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency. Do you know a family in which many of the family members are smokers and all of the smokers have COPD...and other families where none of the smokers have COPD? This suggests that there are genetic links for COPD. There are apparently chromosomal abnormalities that will cause you to get COPD if you smoke. It is a difficult disease to study and research because low level lung destruction takes time.
  • All speakers at the meeting stressed the importance of spirometry for early identification, and the need for smoking cessation. Smoking causes 90% of COPD. The other causes include alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, and (perhaps) low birth weight and frequent childhood infections. Scientists, however, are beginning to find genetic links in addition to alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency. Do you know a family in which many of the family members are smokers and all of the smokers have COPD