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European lung groups voice concern over ‘COPD timebomb’

Results from a new survey looking at the burden of () across 11 European countries have highlighted continued low public awareness of ,1 despite the condition causing more than 55 times as many deaths as MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus).2,3

COPD is a life-threatening lung disease in which the airways are restricted, making it difficult to breathe. It affects up to one in ten adults of the European population and 64 million people die of COPD in the world, every year2. This new survey, conducted among member organisations of the (ECC), shows that general public awareness of COPD is low, and few countries have prioritised reducing the burden of a condition that is now the only cause of death whose incidence worldwide is rising.

Catherine Hartmann, secretary general of the European COPD Coalition commented on the survey findings: “The scale of mortality from COPD in Europe is now equivalent to three Hiroshima bombs per year, and unlike many other lung diseases, it is increasing. Yet the results of this survey show that very few healthcare systems are addressing the problem adequately. It is the responsibility of health policy makers to provide the right framework of care to improve the health, quality of life and wellbeing of people with COPD; we urge them to give this condition the attention it deserves, to avoid the devastating COPD timebomb we are currently facing.”

The cost of outpatient care, in-patient care and medical treatment for COPD amounts to over €10 billion each year.4 Without intervention, the total number of deaths from COPD is projected to increase by more than 30 per cent in the next decade.2 COPD is the fifth biggest cause of deaths worldwide, and kills 250 people every hour.4

The ECC member survey 2014 was conducted among 11 European COPD Coalition affiliated respiratory country organisations. They were asked of their knowledge of the overall burden of COPD in their country, if they thought COPD was regarded as a significant health issue in their countries, and if they knew what level of attention COPD receives among public health and policy makers.

Key survey findings include:

  • In no country were people thought to be more aware of COPD than other lung diseases like asthma
  • Only 6.25 per cent of organisations surveyed felt that their country had a good public health strategy in place to reduce COPD
  • More than 3 out of 5 (62.5 per cent) of the lung organisations surveyed felt their own healthcare system regarded COPD as low/very low priority
  • Almost 9 out of 10 organisations surveyed (87.5 per cent) felt that COPD received too little attention in their countries
  • Four out of five organisations (80 per cent) surveyed believed that their countries would benefit from greater public awareness of the problem

To help raise awareness of the problem within the general public, ECC have produced educational videos which can be viewed on their website (http://www.copdcoalition.eu/) and cover topics such as how to treat COPD and why research into COPD is needed.


1. ECC 2014 Member Survey (September 2014)

2. World Health Organisation, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease key facts (last accessed Sept 2014) http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs315/en/

3. Köck R et al.Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA): burden of disease and control challenges in Europe http://www.eurosurveillance.org/ViewArticle.aspx?ArticleId=19688

4. European COPD Coalition, key facts (last accessed Sept 2014) http://www.copdcoalition.eu/about-copd/key-facts

The 2014 ECC annual member survey was conducted among 18 member organisations of the European COPD Coalition during September 2014.

Source: European COPD Coalition (ECC)