Best Evidence Analyses and Commentary

November is COPD awareness month
Keith Sawh, PharmD Candidate; Marcus Campbell, PharmD, BC-ADM
November 2013



Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is an airway disease characterized by long term progressive airflow limitation. The most common symptoms exhibited by COPD patients include dyspnea, chronic cough with sputum production, tiredness, chest tightness, and limitations of activity. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) estimates that 24 million Americans suffer from COPD, and half of them remain undiagnosed.1 COPD is the third leading cause of death in the Unites States with direct and indirect medical costs equating to approximately $50 billion annually.1  

The goals of COPD management aim to improve symptoms, lung function, and health status and to reduce exacerbations, and mortality.  With the exception of smoking cessation, there is no pharmacological treatment that has been shown to conclusively modify the rate of decline in lung function or disease progression.2 

Treatment plans based on the updated Global Initiative for Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) guidelines now place patients in 1 of 4 groups (A, B, C or D) based on symptoms, degree of airflow limitations, risk of exacerbations and comorbidities.2  This is a change from the previous guideline revision which used spirometry alone to classify disease severity.  However, the approach to treatment remains relatively unchanged.

Table 1 outlines primary pharmacotherapeutic options used in the management of COPD.  In an effort to improve patient compliance, different pharmacological classes of COPD medications are being combined into single inhalers that are administered once daily. Recently, several new COPD treatment options have been introduced. This November during National COPD Awareness Month, LECOM CDIR offers readers an analysis of recent advances in the COPD arena.



1.  National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. “COPD Home“

2.  Global Strategy for the Diagnosis, Management and Prevention of COPD, Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) Updated 2013. Available from:




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