Managing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the first step in helping patients feel better and increase their quality of life. A recent study, “Impact of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) in the Asia-Pacific Region: The EPIC Asia Population-Based Survey,” which was published in the journal Asia Pacific Family Medicine, found that there is a large area for improvement in managing COPD in individuals living in the Asia-Pacific region.
Dr. Sam Lim, corresponding and lead author at Duke-NUS Graduate School of Medicine in Singapore, was joined in the study by colleagues from countries including Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Taiwan, and Philippines to achieve a comprehensive sample of COPD patients in Asia-Pacific. The team screened 112,330 households in nine Asian territories to find patients older than age 40 with a diagnosis of COPD, chronic bronchitis, or emphysema. Altogether, over 69,000 individuals fit the criteria, and over 4,000 had COPD.
The team conducted in-person or phone interviews after identifying these COPD patients. Nearly 2,000 who completed questionnaires were used for data analysis. As reported by the methods of the study, these questionnaires used standard questions that were developed and implemented by Abt SRBI, Inc., on behalf of Takeda Pharmaceuticals. Additional questions were included to gather information on exacerbations experienced by patients.
Based on the data, the researchers estimate the prevalence of COPD in Asia-Pacific to be 6.2% of the population. The lowest region (4.5%) was Indonesia, and the highest region (9.5%) was Taiwan. Interestingly, these countries did not have the lowest/highest percentage of severe COPD. Malaysia (12.5%) and Vietnam (37.5%) fit those criteria. To note, only 59% of patients had a physician diagnosis of COPD, whereas the other 41% had only symptoms of COPD. “Given that identification of COPD in our study was based on subject-reported physician diagnoses and subjects’ perception of their condition and symptoms, it is likely that the actual prevalence of COPD in the participating Asian territories is higher than was estimated,” wrote the authors.
Nearly half (46%) of COPD patients had an exacerbation in the past 12 months. A majority of patients had seasonal exacerbations, with October through January reported as the most often times for exacerbations. Household region also seemed to impact the status of patient symptoms. More individuals in Southeast Asia had “poor or worse” health than those in North Asia.
Another contribution to exacerbations and poor disease management was a general unawareness of patients. Many patients do not see a specialist or general practitioner, and some who have either did not undergo a lung function test or did not know the results of their lung function test. Twenty percent did not know the name of the medication they were using to manage their disease, and 35% felt there are no effective treatments. However, the majority (84-86%) felt their lives could improve with fewer symptoms if there was an appropriate treatment option.
“Other findings from our study suggest an urgent need for improved clinical management in this region, as well as for better patient education,” wrote the authors. Without satisfactory management of their condition, many patients are substantially limited in daily activities and lose productivity in their work. By instigating programs to increase awareness and quality of care, many patients with COPD will benefit.