15 November 2011

Policymakers to prevent Europe from suffocating

Brussels, 15 November 2011 - EFA commemorates World COPD Day 2011 with a press relese to simultaneously acknowledge the work accomplished during the Second COPD Workshop hosted by MPs Seán Kelly and Karin Kadenbach at the European Parliament on 9 November. The meeting on the eve of World COPD Day 2011 successfully brought together policymakers, doctors, patients and other stakeholders to discuss the necessary directions for the research and treatment of COPD. 

EFA launches policy recommendations to curb the human and societal burden of COPD 15 November 2011| Brussels - On the eve of World COPD Day, the European Federation of Allergy and Airways Diseases Patients’ Associations (EFA) launched its policy recommendation to reduce the 32.8 billion EUR now spent each year to address COPD and to improve the lives of the roughly 44 million COPD patients in Europe.
Estimated by the World Health Organisation to rise to the third leading cause of death rank by 2020, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is virtually unknown amongst not only the general public but also amongst many healthcare professionals in primary care.
COPD cannot be cured, which makes prevention, a timely diagnosis and a therapy tailored to the patients’ needs all the more important, to ensure that people with COPD can contribute to society and enjoy a good quality of life for as long as possible.

EFA’s recommendations 

EFA’s recommendations are the result of two workshops on COPD in the European Parliament on 29 June and 9 November, widely supported by the European Respiratory Society (ERS), the European Lung Foundation (ELF), the International Primary Care Respiratory Group (IPCRG) and the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) and co-hosted by MEPs Sean Kelly and Karin Kadenbach.

The recommendations include:

  • Cite COPD explicitly as a warning on tobacco products;
  • Make access to spirometry testing available to all those at risk;
  • Improve cooperation between patients, those working in primary care and specialists to ensure a patient-centered management of the disease that supports staying active;
  • Induce employers to adopt flexible approaches to allow their staff with COPD to remain in the work force;
  • Support the mobility of people with COPD on oxygen therapy
  • Fund research on how to prevent exacerbations;
  • Address COPD co-morbidities, such as depression;

EFA calls upon the EU and Member States to follow its recommendations and implement them as soon as possible, to prevent an average estimate of 10 percent of Europeans from suffocating over the next decade.

The clock is ticking: With Tobacco being by far the most important risk factor, smoking cessation policies are undoubtedly important. However, as Breda Flood, EFA President, points out: "Even if all smokers were to quit immediately, COPD would remain prevalent for decades to come. We hence need a timelier and more accurate diagnosis of COPD patients, as well as a better coordination between the health professionals involved, making the patient's needs the centre of therapy efforts."

Emulate existing good practice to curb EU health inequalities

Professor Jørgen Vestbo, Pulmonologist and Chair of the Scientific Committee of the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease adds: "the revised GOLD strategy document, adopted on 8 November in Shanghai, can help doctors understand and treat COPD better, improve the quality of life for patients and reduce the number and severity of exacerbations which are currently responsible for two third of the COPD-related costs. What is hence
needed is GOLD’s implementation".

Pronounced health inequalities with regard to COPD exist throughout the EU - countries such as Denmark or Finland have proven that investments in COPD are worthwhile: The Finnish COPD programme managed to curb societal costs related to COPD by 88 percent, thanks to a combination of awareness-raising of the general public, smoking cessation policies, education of those working in primary care and an increased availability of COPD testing. Costly days spent in hospital dropped drastically from 34.607 in 1997 to 18.018 in 2007.

Karin Kadenbach MEP concludes: "the Finnish good practice example needs to be emulated throughout Europe. The EU has an obligation to ensure that health inequalities related to COPD are eradicated for the benefits of patients, but also with a view of curbing the societal burden of the disease."

Note to Editors:

EFA Press Release - First COPD Workshop Newsletter - Second COPD Workshop Newsletter

About COPD – the anonymous killer

COPD is not reversible: the disease worsens over time and gradually limits the patient’s ability to breathe. As a result, the patient’s organs and muscles receive less and less oxygen and they slowly but steadily suffocate. There are significant comorbidities related to COPD, such as depression, which is estimated to be prevalent in up to 40% of COPD patients. Although frequently misconceived as a disease which only affects male pensioners, there are
as many COPD patients under 65, as over 65 years of age, with a rising prevalence in women in particular. The resulting loss in productivity adds significantly to the costs of COPD.

About EFA

EFA is a European network of patient organizations that was founded in 1991, prompted by the belief that an international organization 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 careers. 

For more information please contact:
Dr. Antje Fink-Wagner,  Telephone: +49 (0)171 761 6923,  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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