Analysis of the current care model of the COPD patient: a health outcomes assessment and economic evaluation

Neil B Minkoff
Journal of Managed Care Pharmacy: JMCP 2005, 11 (6 Suppl A): S3-7; quiz S20-2

OBJECTIVE: Because chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a common but serious illness affecting millions worldwide, we present an overview of the disease and discuss its underdiagnosis and treatment options.

SUMMARY: COPD, a disease encompassing emphysema and chronic bronchitis, is associated with cigarette smoking, chronic exposure to environmental pollutants, and, occasionally, genetic conditions. The disease is severely underdiagnosed and underrecognized. The economic costs of COPD, which accounted for about 14 million office visits and 3.5 million hospital days in 1993, are estimated at more than $7 billion, and another $8 billion worth of productivity was lost to morbidity and mortality in the same year.1 The death rate from COPD is rising, principally among women. Uniform diagnosis and treatment standards are now being realized. The American Thoracic Society and European Respiratory Society recommend treatment, based on worsening symptoms, with bronchodilators and, in more advanced cases, inhaled corticosteroids. The Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) treatment algorithm also uses a step-care approach. The GOLD guidelines recommend a management program that prevents disease progression, relieves symptoms, improves exercise tolerance and health status, and prevents and treats complications and exacerbations, thereby reducing mortality. The GOLD guidelines recommend avoiding risk factors, using short- or long-acting bronchodilators, and adding rehabilitation and inhaled glucocorticoids. In severe cases, the GOLD guidelines recommend long-term oxygen administration and even surgery. Decisions in managing COPD require a consideration of multiple outcomes measures. Although spirometry remains the foundation for diagnosis and demonstration of efficacy, the patients and their families may be more concerned with symptoms, quality of life, and prevention of exacerbations. In patients with COPD, bronchodilators such as tiotropium produce significant improvements in all of these outcomes measures.

CONCLUSIONS: COPD is a common disease that substantially affects patients, health care systems, and society. With increasing awareness of the disease, improved diagnostic guidelines, and newer cost-effective pharmacologic regimens, this chronic progressive disorder can be effectively recognized and treated, helping to improve patients. overall health and quality of life.

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