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GPs Call For Concerted Action On COPD

Media Release
19 NOVEMBER 2003

GPs Call For Concerted Action On COPD
Where there is smoke, there is COPD – chronic lung disease.

GPs support World COPD Day, 19 November, which focuses on the long term suffering and cost caused by the two most common conditions associated with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

“We need to wake up to the seriousness of COPD and its proven link with tobacco,” says Auckland GP, Dr Henry Doerr. The College of GPs representative on the COPD working committee, Dr Doerr said chronic bronchitis and emphysema still affect tens of thousands of New Zealanders, yet are almost totally preventable if people don’t smoke.

“While the cost to the health system of these largely avoidable diseases is estimated at around $352 million a year, the biggest impact is on the patients and their families,” he said.

“If you smoke you are very likely to have an old age blighted with a chronic lack of breath and other complications which will seriously affect your lifestyle. You cannot be cured and COPD it only gets worse.”

One of Dr Doerr’s patients, a world-class sportsman and New Zealand icon spent his last years gasping for breath, an oxygen mask strapped on for 18 hours a day.

As primary care doctors, GPs see with disturbing frequency the suffering that patients and their families experience from chronic lung disease, despite that for over 40 years the compelling connection between smoking and COPD has been widely accepted.

New Zealand GPs work hard to educate patients about the dangers of smoking and COPD, and to motivate them to quit through publicly available cessation programmes. Doctors have also increased their efforts through more sophisticated lung function testing to identify patients most at risk of developing COPD. All patients who have smoked for more than 10 years and who cough up mucus or become short of breath on inclines should seek a lung function test as early diagnosis can be vital.

The two most important aims of World COPD Day are to reduce smoking addiction, and to raise awareness of the direct link between tobacco and chronic lung disease.

“If we succeed, today’s adolescents and young adults will avoid becoming the next generation’s COPD sufferers. What could be more worthwhile that?” says Dr Doerr.


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