COPD in 2016

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This blog post was written by Dr. Byron Thomashow, COPD Foundation Chairman of the Board.

The times are changing. All COPD is not the same and everyone with COPD should not be treated the same way. For over 50 years, we have known that some people with advanced COPD have increased survival when they use Oxygen. For over 20 years, we have known that there is an inherited form of COPD called alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency that can be treated with intravenous therapy. Everyone with COPD should be tested for alpha-1.

“Dr. Byron Thomashow For over 10 years, we have known that a subset of people with upper lobe predominate emphysema can benefit from a surgical procedure called Lung Volume Reduction Surgery where the worst areas of emphysema are removed. In carefully selected patients, this procedure can improve quality of life, exercise capacity, and even survival, the first therapy since Oxygen shown to improve survival in advanced COPD. We are now developing less invasive approaches using a flexible tube called a bronchoscope which allows placement of valves or coils to perform lung volume reduction. Several of these devices have already been approved in Europe and will be evaluated here by the FDA in coming years.

Over the last decade we he have learned that there are people with COPD who are “frequent exacerbators”, who have two or more “flares of disease” a year and that they behave differently than those with COPD who are not “frequent exacerbators.” We now have a number of excellent medications that can treat these “frequent exacerbators” and reduce the “flares of disease.” We are learning that even this group can be better defined. We now know that those with a chronic bronchitic form of COPD with chronic cough and sputum who have frequent exacerbations could benefit from a daily oral pill. And more recently we are learning that “frequent exacerbators” with an elevated number of eosinophils (allergy blood cells) might well benefit from specific therapy, and new therapies for this subtype are already being studied.

You should talk to your health care provider about what type of COPD you have, whether you have more emphysema or more chronic bronchitis, whether you are a “frequent exacerbator” or not, and if you are a “frequent exacerbator” what your eosinophil count is. All COPD is not the same. All COPD should not be treated the same. That is what “personalized medicine” is all about, and that is the future.

11 Comments



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  • Thank you. "Personalized Medicine" is necessary. No two patients are the same. There are too many variables in life to think that one treatment is the same for all, just because it is the same diagnosis.. Thank you again.
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  • Dr. Thomashow you are my hero! I would not still be around if not for my LVRS. Thanks for everything! Will there be anymore Mets COPD days?

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  • What is the name of this daily oral Pill and how does it help?
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    • Cherokeeprayer, I believe the article is referring to a medication called Daliresp (roflumilast). It helps with flare ups (exacerbations) for those that have chronic bronchitis. If you have congestion and frequent flare ups you might want to talk to your pulmonologist about it.
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    • THANK YOU!
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    • GOOD EVENING Cherokeeprayer. Like Debbie is telling you it is DALIRESP. I have been on it for at least a year with no exacerbations . Very expensive (even with ins.) but will stay on it .Don't understand why medicare pts. can't get a break on meds . I go online every day & keep looking & looking & praying that some where i will find help paying for drugs. Hope you all get on DALIRESP it does help..CAROL
      plumeria1942@verzon.net
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  • It is good that the time are changing. Knowledge on so many topics is exploding, and we in the COPD community need to stay at the forefront of research and new opportunities! Thanks for sharing your insight, Byron.
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    • Thank You , I amnew to this `COPD FOUNDATION site & the only way i learn is by reading what others have to say or suggest. Sure didn't learn anything from my PULM. DOC or PCP. I lot 2 years of not knowing any thing!!! CAROL
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  • Everyone seems to assume that if you have COPD/emphysema you should be on oxygen. My husband has severe emphysema, is not on oxygen and never will be. Three lung specialists have told him this, but last week his GP finally explained the reason. He can take in oxygen okay, in fact his blood saturation is 97%, but he has difficulty breathing out, and this is because the alveoli are so badly damaged from smoking, that if he was given oxygen it would poison him. This is rarely explained, and I am wondering if anyone else on this website knows about it.
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  • I see my pulmonologist yearly and when I ask if there are new treatments for copd or new meds I could try he just says no they all work about the same and not much can help you. He gives me a open script for steroids and antibiotics that I can fill as needed. I flare almost monthly, mainly cause I push myself. I own a business and work everyday and am not on oxygen. I will push myself to accomplish goals even if I struggle and it takes longer. I have a background in medicine so I am comfortable taking care of myself but it would be nice to have support from a medical professional too. My primary doctor is the same as my pulmonologist just gives me steroids. I am really stubborn and a tough cookie with a mission here yet to complete so I plan on hanging around for a while longer despite a lack of care.
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