New Survey Shows Rise of U.S COPD

COPD, a disease of the lungs that obstructs regular breathing, is shown to be on the rise in the United States. Glaxosmithkline, (GSK) one of the worlds leading healthcare pharmaceutical companies, recently implemented a global survey for those living with COPD, the third leading cause of death. In the last decade, COPD has risen to affect approximately 6-7% of adults over the age of 40. It is beginning to affect more women and non-smokers than before. This could be a result of pollutants in the atmosphere but it is not for certain.

As patients, caregivers and the healthcare community come together in support of World COPD Day (November 19), a GSK global survey of people living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) sheds new light on the growing burden of COPD in the US. GSK’s “Continuing to Confront COPD International Patient Survey” explores changes in COPD prevalence and disease burden, comparing data from the current study with GSK’s original “Confronting COPD” survey conducted ten years ago.[1],[2]

COPD is a growing problem in the US and in one decade has risen from the fourth leading cause of death to the third, after heart disease and cancer.[3] Data from the survey suggest that COPD prevalence has also increased from a decade ago, from six to seven percent of adults ages 40 years and older.

The burden of COPD on patients and the US healthcare system was also high. Twenty-six percent of US participants reported visiting the emergency room as a result of their COPD, with an additional 17 percent hospitalized within the last year – a statistic similar to that reported in Mexico, and higher than those reported in most European countries surveyed.

The survey also revealed that many patients may be underestimating the severity of their symptoms. While more than half (54 percent) of US participants reported clinically significant dyspnea (shortness of breath), the majority (70 percent) classified their COPD as only mild or moderate in severity, demonstrating a disconnect between the level of symptoms and their own subjective assessment of the disease.

“Given GSK’s 40-year heritage in the respiratory disease area, we were keen to follow up on our decade-old landmark study—the first COPD cross-national, population-based survey of its kind—with an update that helps provide insights as to how the disease and its management have evolved over time,” said Kourtney Davis, PhD, MSPH, GSK’s lead global epidemiologist on the survey.

“From these findings we see that the face of COPD is changing,” added Davis. “Traditionally, COPD was considered to be a disease of elderly male smokers, but now, more women than men  report having COPD, and about a quarter of patients have never smoked.”

In the US, the number of females affected by COPD (7.1 percent), was notably higher than males (6.2 percent). As a result, physicians may want to consider additional evaluation when women present with respiratory symptoms, recurrent respiratory infections, or fatigue, to assess COPD and improve outcomes. The percentage of US participants who were identified as “never-smokers” was 25 percent – giving researchers reason to explore additional risk factors, such as environmental or occupational exposures, and asthma, as well as consider whether symptomatic non-smoking patients need early screening and access to recommended disease management.

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Study: Asthma Inhaler use in Children Stunts Growth

Child with inhaler

The Guardian recently covered two asthma studies regarding inhaler usage and growth in children. The studies were conducted by Francine Ducharme, a pediatrician at the University of Montreal. The first study analyzed published inhaler usage trials of over 8,400 children. Results showed that the growth rate for children under 18 without steroid usage exceeded the growth rate for children using steroids by approximately half a centimeter per year.

The second study followed children who were taking medication doses between 50 to 200 micrograms of inhalable steroids. The children who took higher doses were at an increased risk of stunted growth.

Children who use inhalable steroids for asthma grow slower than their peers in the first year of taking the medication, researchers say.

But doctors said the effect was so small it was easily outweighed by the clear benefits of taking the drugs, which prevent serious asthma attacks and even deaths from the breathing disorder.

Children who used the common corticosteroids to alleviate their asthma symptoms grew on average half a centimetre less over the course of a year, compared with children who did not take the medicine.

The steroids seemed to affect children’s growth only in the first year and had even less of an impact on their growth rate when used in low doses of no more than 100 micrograms.

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TEDMED Features Gecko Health in its Blog

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TEDMED, a platform for sharing health related ideas and innovative solutions, recently featured the Geckocap in a blog post. The article focused on companies using data and monitoring techniques to help adolescents suffering from chronic or temporary health issues. The following companies were discussed in the article: Kinsa, an oral thermometer coupled with the technical prowess of a smartphone, Nonoly, a chemical making vaccine refrigeration obsolete allowing medicine to travel easily to rural areas and our very own Gecko Health Innovations.

Medication adherence is such an integral part of healthcare management that it is important to establish such habits at early ages, thus potentially creating a lifetime of medication self-management.

Move over, plastic stethoscopes: A number of innovations from TEDMED Hive 2013 companies aim to help even the littlest patients become engaged in their own real-life care.

Kinsa makes an oral thermometer that leverages the crowdsourcing power of a smart phone. The thermometer plugs into and transmits data to a free smartphone app – iOS now, but Android as well in the future – which also records and tracks symptoms and temps for easy retrieval at a pediatrician’s office. What’s more, the next phase of the product will provide crowd sourced data from social networks to allow parents to see what’s going on in a child’s neighborhood or school. Strep going around? Lice? Better act now.

The company is focusing first on tracking childhood ills, because mothers are the primary users of thermometers, says Kinsa deputy CEO Qian Qian Tang, and because children are prime carriers of highly contagious diseases like flu, whooping cough and measles.

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The White House, Traffic Pollution and Asthma

Jeffrey Seyler, the president and CEO of the American Lung Association, recently posted an article on the Huffington Post regarding traffic pollution and lung problems. Pollution can cause or worsen asthma related symptoms, especially in adolescents. The EPA reports that approximately 50% of Americans live in constant threat from unhealthy air quality. In addition, around one third live in close proximity to major roadways filled with dangerous vehicle emissions. Currently the white house is proposing a solution that will regulate sulfur levels and vehicle emission standards thus forging a path to cleaner air. However, if the White House does not adopt the proposal within the month, it could delay for an entire year.

It’s a little hard to remember while we are currently in the late stages of a tough winter, but the smog season will soon be here. The air quality index will displace the wind chill index – and in many areas, people will be urged to stay indoors to flee the dirty air.

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Study Shows Texting Increases Asthma Adherence in Adolescents

With adherence as such a major part of asthma management, the University of Rochester studied a potential mobile phone platform that can increase user adherence, specifically in adolescents. The platform is used to monitor symptoms and their parents can receive relevant updates throughout the day. The study found that the platform was accepted by most adolescents as a way to manage their asthma and could be implemented in the future.

“Purpose: Adolescents report high asthma-related morbidity that can be prevented by adequate self-management of the disease. Therefore, there is a need for a developmentally appropriate strategy to promote effective asthma self-management. Mobile phone-based technology is portable, commonly accessible, and well received by adolescents. The purpose of this study was to develop and evaluate the feasibility and acceptability of a comprehensive mobile phone-based asthma self-management aid for adolescents (mASMAA) that was designed to facilitate symptom monitoring, treatment adherence, and adolescent–parent partnership. The system used state-of-the-art natural language-understanding technology that allowed teens to use unconstrained English in their texts, and to self-initiate interactions with the system.

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Kids with asthma and allergies could benefit from owning a dog.

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Rachel Starr, 7, of Boston gets some help from her dog, Violet as she tries to build an igloo on the Boston Common on December 15, 2013. (Jessica Rinaldi For The Boston Globe) (Taken from the Boston Globe)

The Boston Globe recently published an article on their blog covering a study that researched potential health benefits from having a dog at home. Results showed that a specific bacteria, carried by dogs, has a positive effect on immune systems in young children. Thus, it becomes less likely that they will develop allergies and asthma.

The study examined mice exposed to dust from a dog-free home and from a dog owners house. The later were less susceptible to developing reactions from common allergens. The research, currently in early stages, could potentially provide a new method in coping with asthma and allergies.

“While allergies to pet dander certainly keep many families from owning dogs, it turns out having man’s best friend as a pet might actually protect babies from developing allergies and asthma in the first place. A new study conducted with mice could explain the reason why: dust from homes with dogs has a higher amount of beneficial bacteria. This helps establish a balanced immune system in a child that’s less likely to attack harmless allergens.

Previous research suggests that the establishment of certain gut bacteria in the intestinal tracts of newborns could affect their development of asthma later in childhood. Certain harmful bacteria associated with the use of antibiotics, for example, were found by European researchers to increase a child’s risk of asthma, while living with a dog or cat in the house was found in other studies to decrease the risk.

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“At Least a Quarter of Asthma Cases Misdiagnosed”

Asthma cases have been increasing at a steady rate over the last decade. This year around 25 million Americans are diagnosed with the disease yet a significant number of them are misdiagnosed. Indeed, CBS News covered recent asthma studies showing that 25 to 30 percent of patients with asthma in fact do not have the disease. Most of these misdiagnoses are due to similar symptoms coming from other underlying illnesses such as acid-reflux.

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – New research indicates a large number of asthma patients have been misdiagnosed.

As CBS 2′s Dr. Max Gomez reported, recent studies show that while 25 million Americans have been diagnosed with the disease, a starling number don’t actually have asthma.

Asthma is a potentially life-threatening disease that can cause wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath. But about 25 to 30 percent of patients are misdiagnosed, according to recent studies.

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