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Australian Journal of Pharmacy : May 2008
ProfEssional feature | resPIratOrY Care WITH COPD exPeCTeD TO be THe THIrD HIgHesT Cause Of mOrTalITy by 2020, PHarmaCIsTs Have a Clear rOle In PrevenTIOn, IDenTIfICaTIOn anD PrImary Care, Kymberly martin reports. into failing lungs E KEy POInts n By 2020 it is estimated that COPD will be the third most common form of death. n One in seven smokers develop COPD. n Help identify at risk patients; smokers, those with persistent cough, particularly aged older than 40. stimates show that more than one million Australians have Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). More alarming, however, is that almost three quarters are unaware they have the disease, said Heather Allan, executive director, COPD Program, The Australian Lung Foundation. The Australian Lung Foundation estimates that COPD costs Australia almost $1bn annually and every day 1,000 COPD patients occupy Australian hospital beds. Smoking is the single biggest cause of COPD, with approximately 85% of COPD being linked to smoking history, Ms Allan told the AJP. the australIan jOurnal Of PharmaCY vOl. 89 maY 2008 42 ‘Quitting smoking is vital for those diagnosed with COPD. Getting onto a smoking cessation program straight away is the number one thing the patient can do to slow down progression of the disease and to improve their symptoms. Damage to lung and airways cannot be reversed, however, appropriate management of COPD can improve quality of life and keep people out of hospital.’ Environmental factors play a role in COPD. Miners, farmers and others who have worked in dusty environments are at elevated risk. Women seem to be more susceptible than men, possibly because they have smaller airways. A small proportion of COPD is related to a genetic deficiency of alpha-1 antitrypsin. COPD is often confused with asthma, as symptoms of the two conditions are similar. These include breathlessness and productive cough. As people age, their ability to compensate for damage done to the lungs through smoking, or environmental exposures, is reduced. Symptoms, such as shortness of breath, are often attributed to ageing. Previously COPD was a male dominated disease that reflected the relative rates of smoking among men. However, as more women have taken up smoking, COPD is increasingly common in women, Ms Allan said. ‘It is important to identify COPD