- Update on the National Lung Health Education Program (NLHEP)
- August 2000
- Dear Friends
The National Lung Health Education Program, (NLHEP), is designed to include all primary care physicians in the early identification and treatment of COPD and related disorders. The NLHEP recommends simple spirometry testing in all smokers age 45 and older, and in anyone with chronic cough, shortness of breath, excess mucus, or wheeze. Many experts believe that spirometric testing should begin in smokers at age 35.
Although all smokers must stop, those who are losing lung function have an urgent situation. It is no longer an intellectual decision about smoking or not, but an absolute must that all smoking stop immediately. The smoker should pick a quit date, and ask their physician to prescribe drugs to reduce nicotine withdrawal. In addition to COPD, the presence of airflow abnormalities also indicates a high risk of lung cancer, heart attack, stroke, and all other causes of premature death! So, the NLHEP's recommendation for spirometry testinig is really a general healthcare initiative in for America.
A briefing was held recently in Dallas, for the pharmaceutical industries who make drugs for the treatment of COPD, and for manufacturers of office spirometers. It was exciting to hear about the effectiveness of new smoking cessation strategies. New drugs are being developed to stop the progress of COPD, and to prevent the most dreaded form of COPD, emphysema. There are five first-line drugs to help smokers quit, and a large armamentarium of bronchodilators and antiinflammatory drugs to help reduce symptoms of mild to moderate disease. Industry is also developing a whole family of new drugs designed to reduce the inflammatory processes that result in COPD and emphysema. The future prospects for treating emphysema early and preventing its disastrous complications seem extremely bright.
The NLHEP is now launching a new program called the National Emphysema Prevention Program, designed to prevent emphysema. By encouraging the public to insist on spirometric tests when risks of emphysema are present (i.e., from smoking, a family history of emphysema, or worrisome symptoms), we can find and treat early stages of COPD before the dreaded emphysemic component takes over. A "Test Your Lungs, Know Your Numbers" is the motto of the NLHEP and the National Emphysema Prevention Program. If the public demands spirometric tests from their physicians, even those doctors who today do not regularly do spirometry in their offices, may begin to add this necessary test. All smokers and anyone with symptoms must have their doctors do these important tests.
I will be in touch next month.
- Thomas Petty, MD