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Leading respiratory organisations advocate for a comprehensive strategy to address growing epidemic of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

Collaborative approach needed to address the significant socio-economic impact of leading lung disease in the EU


First-of-its-kind European open forum meeting to combat alarming increase of people living with COPD.

Multidisciplinary initiative to address key challenges in early diagnosis and management of COPD.

The European Parliament saw leading respiratory organisations and policy makers unite this week to present and discuss the need for a comprehensive strategy to combat the growing epidemic of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Participants from across Europe, including representatives from national professional organisations, patient associations and physicians, attended the open forum meeting, hosted by Catherine Stihler, Member of the European Parliament.

Catherine Stihler, a leading advocate within the European Parliament on COPD and Chairman of the open forum event commented: "With the relevance of COPD underestimated, amidst differing standards affecting patient care, a joint effort is needed to address this burdensome disease for patients and their families. Across national and European levels, limitations in policies need to be challenged and obstacles to effective care need to be removed. What we need is a robust policy framework to allow healthcare professionals to identify patients earlier and make the necessary interventions to tackle this disease effectively."

COPD affects nearly 44 million people in Europe1 and is predicted by the World Health Organization (WHO) to become the third leading cause of death worldwide by 2030. In spite of these alarming figures, significant discrepancies exist across Europe in the understanding of the scope and impact of the disease, its diagnosis and effective management of the condition. COPD costs almost 50 billion Euros annually3 and accounts for approximately 41.3 percent of all lost working days every year in Europe3.

Estimating the overall cost of COPD needs to account for both direct costs (such as treatment and hospital costs) and indirect costs (such as loss of work days and disability) to fully understand the implications for healthcare systems and national economies.

"To address the escalating socio-economic burden of COPD, we need a clear and implementable strategy across Europe. The European Respiratory Society and the European Lung Foundation, in cooperation with European Federation of Allergy and Airways Diseases Patients’ Associations, are working in partnership to improve education about COPD.

"By ensuring the latest research is accessible to a wide audience, we can help make COPD a health priority across Europe," stated Marc Decramer, President of the European Respiratory Society (ERS).

Despite COPD being a preventable and treatable disease, studies have shown that as many as 75 percent of those affected remain undiagnosed4

Marianella Salapatas, President of the European Federation of Allergy and Airways Diseases Patients’ Associations (EFA) explains: "Smoking is a major risk factor of COPD. People who experience symptoms therefore often feel stigmatised and thus often do not seek advice from a healthcare professional until the disease is already in an advanced stage."

"By implementing effective treatment management protocols such as smoking cessation and a stepwise approach to treatment, as recommended by the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease guidelines, disease progression may be delayed," emphasised Monica Fletcher, Chair of the European Lung Foundation (ELF).

Discussing the management of COPD, Dr. David Halpin, Consultant Physician and Senior Lecturer in Respiratory Medicine, Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, UK said: "Best outcomes can be achieved with a holistic treatment approach, which includes smoking cessation. I am very confident that collaborative initiatives such as this one today by ERS, ELF, and EFA will help to put COPD higher on the agenda of European decision-makers and thus help to reduce the number of deaths and the significant economic burden caused by this disease."

This programme was supported by Boehringer Ingelheim and Pfizer Inc.

News source: The European Lung Foundation was founded by the European Respiratory Society (ERS) in 2000 with the aim of bringing together patients, the public and respiratory professionals to positively influence respiratory medicine.

The European Respiratory Society is the leading professional organisation in its field in Europe. It is broad-based, with some 10,000 members and counting in over 100 countries. Its scope covers both basic science and clinical medicine. ERS seeks to alleviate suffering from respiratory disease and promote lung health through research, sharing of knowledge and through medical and public education.

European Federation of Allergy and Airways Diseases Patients’ Associations (EFA) is a European network of patient organisations that was founded in 1991, prompted by the belief that an international organisation formed by European patients associations that share the same aims would be a more effective way to serve the needs and safeguard the rights of patients and their carers. For more information, please visit: http://www.efanet.org.


1. EFA Book on Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease in Europe. Sharing and Caring. 2009. 

2. WHO Statistical Information System (WHOSIS). World Health Statistics. 2008. 

3. European Respiratory Society and European Lung Foundation. Lung Health in Europe: A Better Understanding of Lung Disease and Respiratory Care in Europe: Facts & Figures.

4. Rudolf M. The reality of drug use in COPD: The European Perspective. Chest 2000;117(suppl): 29S-32S.

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