Respiratory Care Week Brings Awareness to Third Largest Killer in the U.S.

Respiratory Care Week Brings Awareness to Third Largest Killer in the U.S.

10.23.12 | By Preet Bilinski

The third-leading cause of death in the U.S. is not nearly as recognizable as it should be, even to those who suffer from the condition. More than 13 million people have been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); however, another 12 million people don't even realize that they have it, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Most alarming of all, one person dies from COPD every four minutes.

Respiratory Care Week 2012, an annual event taking place October 22-27 is helping to educate the community about this condition. It celebrates respiratory care professionals and their dedication to improving the lives of patients and brings awareness to lung diseases.

Encompassing two conditions, emphysema and bronchitis, COPD is a lower respiratory disease that obstructs the airways of the lungs, making normal breathing difficult. Smoking causes about 90% of COPD deaths; other contributing factors include air pollution, genetic and childhood respiratory infections, second-hand smoke, and workplace chemicals.

As the condition develops gradually, it's important that patients are tested as soon as possible to slow the progress of the disease, which can impact a person's ability to perform the most basic of tasks. Recent studies have shown that COPD patients are more likely to have poorer quality of sleep than those without the condition - which is yet another reason COPD research is so crucial.

Although there is no cure yet for COPD, innovative research by biopharmaceutical companies continues to shed light on potential treatments and development of new medicines to fight the disease. In February, we reported that PhRMA member companies have 54 COPD medicines currently in clinical trials or awaiting FDA approval. A study, published in September in the International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, also suggests that geroprotectors, which are medications that target the causes of aging and age-related diseases to prolong life-span, can help slow down premature aging of the lungs caused by COPD.

The number of Americans affected by COPD is growing and the problem is getting worse. In fact, it is the only leading cause of death on the rise. While it's important to recognize the toll that COPD has taken on patients all over America, it's also crucial to recognize and support the important research, innovation and development that biopharmaceutical companies are devoting to help fight this disease.

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