29 August 2013
- Healthcare

COPD finally declared a priority disease by WHO

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) was for the first time listed as one of the priorities in the latest World Health Organisation’s (WHO) "Priority Medicines Update Report for Europe and the World". EFA welcomes this decision as it is a big step forward in getting more political recognition and attention to a disease which affects 44 million people in Europe and is expected to become the third leading cause of death by 2030.

Despite the fact that COPD afflicts up to 10% of adults in Europe and it poses an enormous burden on social and health care systems, it has not gained much attention or adequate funding in any country in Europe, whether for research, prevention, or clinical services. Not much has changed in the last decade: available treatments for COPD are still mainly palliative and no therapies that could halt the decline in lung function or the progressive destruction of the airways exist. Smoking cessation is currently the single most effective intervention to improve outcomes in patients with COPD. Together with long term oxygen treatment, smoking cessation is also the only way to regulate long-term course of COPD.

As the prospects of developing new therapies to treat lung inflammation or reverse COPD remain poor, reducing the prevalence of smoking is still the most effective prevention. There is a need to be able to predict and evaluate usefulness of management and prevention strategies for COPD and assess impact of different COPD interventions. Countries should also develop methods to track trends in COPD prevalence in order to plan health care services able to respond to the predicted increases in the disease. The report identifies pharmaceutical gaps: diseases of public health importance for which pharmaceutical treatments either do not exist or are inadequate. As a result, 24 diseases were chosen on the basis of burden for society, mortality ranking, projections, social solidarity and risk factors.

By listing it in the “Priority Medicine Research” WHO counts COPD among the priority diseases such as cancer, stroke, diabetes and HIV/AIDS. It is an important signal to European institutions currently negotiating the Horizon 2020 research programme and the Tobacco Products Directive. For years, EFA has been dedicated to improving care for patients with COPD and advocated also for rights of patients who have to travel with oxygen on board aircrafts. EFA believes that identifying COPD as a priority disease will help to place it at the centre of attention with the European Commission and the European Parliament, eventually leading to better for COPD patients in Europe. See the whole report here.

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