New Research Gives Hope for Slowing Progression and Mortality of Fourth Leading Cause of Death

November 13, 2019

For more information contact:
Cathy Carlomagno

WASHINGTON, DC--Research published yesterday suggests that we may be able to finally find a way to slow disease progression and provide preventative measures for the first time to individuals at risk of developing the 4th leading cause of death in the United States—chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

In a bold proposal that challenges decades-old criteria, the new research analysis—published in the peer-reviewed Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases: Journal of the COPD Foundation—proposes to expand the criteria by which smokers are diagnosed with COPD which affects an estimated 30 million individuals in the U.S. alone (15 million diagnosed, another 15 million estimated to be undiagnosed with the disease).

Using the new criteria proposed in the published article would enable treatment to be provided earlier to slow or halt disease progression before disability or irreversible lung structural changes occurs. This new proposal comes from the COPD Genetic Epidemiology (COPDGene) study—a 21-center study of 10,000 individuals supported by the National Institutes of Health and begun in 2007.

In “COPDGene® 2019: Redefining the Diagnosis of COPD” which is endorsed and authored by 100+ top pulmonology researchers, clinicians and industry partners, the COPDGene’s 12-year longitudinal study of smokers concludes that there are individuals, with signs and symptoms of COPD, who do not meet the current diagnostic criteria from the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) which relies on results from spirometry, a lung function test.

“A large number of individuals have symptoms and abnormal CT but do NOT meet the current GOLD standards for COPD diagnosis,” explains James D. Crapo, MD, of National Jewish Health in Denver and co-principal investigator for the COPDGene study. “It may be decades before they actually meet GOLD criteria to be diagnosed with COPD. And by the time they meet the criteria, their COPD is severe and progresses fast.”

“If we diagnose earlier, we can provide better care and begin to focus on prevention,” he explains. “If we expand the COPD diagnosis criteria, as we are suggesting in our research published yesterday, there is the potential to prevent, better treat and limit progression of COPD for millions of individuals.”

Dr. Crapo and his co-authors suggest expanding the diagnosis criteria to include a combined focus on symptoms, CT imaging, exposure (smoking history) and spirometry. “We have for years said there are millions of individuals walking around with undiagnosed, untreated COPD, “ Crapo explains “Now we have the opportunity to diagnose these individuals, treat them and reduce their risk of developing severe, debilitating disease while also reducing their risk of death. We could not only improve their quality of life but extend their life as well.”

To read the full text of the published article, and other supporting articles, visit

COPD is the 4th leading cause of death in the United States and the 8th leading cause of disability with economic costs attributed to COPD expected to hit $49 billion in 2020 (up from 39.1 billion in 2010). The disease encompasses progressive lung diseases such as emphysema, chronic bronchitis, refractory asthma and severe bronchiectasis and is characterized by increasing breathlessness.

About the COPD Foundation
The COPD Foundation’s mission is to prevent and cure chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and improve the lives of all people affected by COPD. The Foundation’s activities focus on achieving these results through research, education and advocacy programs. To learn more about the COPD Foundation, please visit