18 November 2009

EFA Highlights the Urgent Need For Change and A Comprehensive European Strategy to Fight Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Brussels, 18 November 2009 – The European Federation of Allergy and Airways Diseases Patients Associations (EFA) today launched a book comparing and analysing the situation of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) in Europe for the first time from the patients’ perspective. The Book highlights and urgent need to reduce the suffering and mortality from this disease, which will – if not tackled appropriately – be the third leading cause of death worldwide by 2030.

Launched to coincide with World COPD Day 2009, the “EFA Book on COPD in Europe. Sharing and Caring” represents an unprecedented collection of data on the quality of care, disease management, social and financial burden of COPD in Europe and highlights serious shortfalls across many measures.

The book sheds light on an “underdiagnosed, undertreated and neglected disease”. It stresses that the misclassification and different definitions of COPD throughout Europe lead to underestimations of the actual impact of the disease. Mrs Catherine Stihler, MEP said “I highly commend the work of EFA. It is vital that people across Europe and the world are made aware of COPD. At least 44 million people across Europe are suffering from the disease, and the figure is set to rise each year”.

All national patient associations surveyed reported that access to early diagnosis of COPD is ‘difficult’ or ‘very difficult’ in their countries. An alarming message, considering that an early and accurate diagnosis of COPD would allow for lifestyle changes and timely treatment that can prevent the progression of the disease. Also, COPD has a significant social impact such as disability and poor quality of life for people with the disease, their families and carers. Anxiety, depression and stress are common and further negatively affect the COPD prognosis. But even once diagnosed, access to programmes, treatments, support services and rehabilitation in most countries is reported to be “difficult” to “very difficult”. In Austria for example, only hospitalised patients undergo rehabilitation and there is a long waiting list.

COPD also weighs heavily on healthcare budgets. The total financial burden of COPD in Europe is estimated to be over €50 billion and is expected to increase. COPD often leads to work absenteeism and loss in productivity, which- for example - accounts for 67% of overall costs in France and 50% in the Netherlands.

Evidence of progress is nevertheless highlighted in the book, mainly on prevention. Initiatives to raise awareness on the hazards of smoking – the leading cause of COPD - and to reduce second hand smoke have marked important steps in the fight against COPD, though few people know that they cause COPD.

The Book shows that urgent actions need to be taken in order to improve the rate of diagnosis, access to comprehensive care and healthy environment. “COPD is sometimes considered as part of the discussions on various related EU policy initiatives including outdoor and indoor air pollution, climate change, product regulations, and tobacco control. However, no dedicated EU strategy has been adopted on respiratory diseases yet and the topic needs to be tackled directly,” urged Marianella Salapatas, EFA President. “We are calling on the EU Commission to establish a EU framework for sharing best practices on COPD management by the end of 2010”.

The main conclusion arising from the project is that the epidemiological and social impact of COPD must and can be effectively recognised and addressed now. The book advocates a coordinated and comprehensive EU-wide strategy on COPD, rather than disperse initiatives at European and national levels, taking into consideration local situations and involving the EU and national policy makers, healthcare professionals, and patient associations.

This book is a first step towards a coordinated response to COPD. It will be presented to the Parliament and Commission together with a concrete call-to-action in early 2010.

The book is available online:  

About EFA

The European Federation of Allergy and Airways Diseases Patients’ Associations (EFA) is an alliance of 35 member organisations in 22 countries, founded in 1991. EFA is committed to improve the health and quality of care of patients with allergy, asthma and COPD and encourage patient participation through advocacy, capacity building and sharing best practices. EFA’s priorities include indoor and outdoor air quality, greater access to and quality of medical and social care and prevention, patient centred research and meaningful patient participation in research, involvement in policies, commissioning of patient care services & society and having a voice in care delivery & society. 


The EFA COPD Book are sponsored by unrestricted educational grants from EFA sustainable corporate partners Boehringer Ingelheim and GlaxoSmithKline.


For further information, or to receive hard copy of the book, please contact:

Susanna Palkonen, EFA Executive Officer, +32 (0)2 227 2712, Mobile +32 (0)476 373923, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Press office: Marie-Agnès Cederborg, +32 (0)2 213 13 98, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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