A wide range of new treatments for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is in the development pipeline with the potential to help the estimated three million people who suffer from the condition, a report published today by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) reveals.


​COPD is primarily caused by smoking and was the main cause of more than 23,000 deaths in England and Wales in 2004, although the total number of COPD-deaths is certainly larger than this.

"Research is especially intensive into COPD because, while existing medicines provide control over the condition's symptoms, they do not halt or reverse its progression," said Dr Richard Barker, Director General of the ABPI.

"The UK-based pharmaceutical industry is working on a wide range of medicines, many of which work in very different ways and by concentrating on very different 'targets', but all of which seek to prolong people's lives and give them a far better quality of life."

Dr Barker was speaking at the launch of Target COPD, the latest in a series of reports examining a disease area, explaining about it and the treatments that have been developed.

COPD has been estimated to cost the health service more than £800 million a year and to cause 24 million lost working days a year. It is responsible for more than 114,000 hospital admissions, most of them emergencies, requiring just over a million bed-days of in-patient care.

The term COPD covers both emphysema and chronic bronchitis, but not asthma. Because smoking is the single most important factor that increases the risk of COPD, being responsible for about 80 per cent of both cases and deaths caused by the condition, much pharmaceutical

research has concentrated on helping people to stop. Most of the remaining cases are caused by pollutants.

As well as these treatments, new medicines being developed address the needs of people with COPD in other areas:

  • Improved bronchodilators.
  • Anti-inflammatory agents.
  • Protease inhibitors

Existing medicines can control the symptoms of COPD for many people, but do not halt or reverse the progress of the disease. "There is therefore a substantial need for new medicines, and research into developing new therapies for COPD is intensive," the report states.

Research has especially concentrated on anti-inflammatory agents. The area is extremely complex, but this very complexity opens up a range of possible treatments, and a number of medicines in development may offer exciting possibilities, the report states.

Target COPD has been written by Dr Stephen Bartlett.

Notes to Editor: 

There are 19 guides charting the pharmaceutical industry's progress in major disease areas.

Those still in print include: Target Heart Disease, Target Leukaemia, Target Pain, Target Cancer, Target Crohn's & Colitis, Target Osteoporosis, Target Rheumatoid Arthritis, Target Stroke, Target Migraine, Target Prostate, Target Alzheimer's, Target Schizophrenia, Target Skin, Target Breast Cancer and Target Diabetes.

For further information, please contact: ABPI Press Office 020 7747 1410


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