The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) is offering a free COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) toolkit for pharmacists. It is estimated that COPD is the third leading cause of death in the United States. Unfortunately, it is also estimated that there are millions who go undiagnosed.
The Lack of Diagnosis and Treatment
Many physicians and patients report that it’s not breathing issues that lead to a visit with their doctor. Why people avoid the doctor is a bit of a mystery. Some speculate that we just assume we can’t breathe well due to extra weight. Many patients describe their symptom as “being out of shape”. Others expect that breathing complications are because of smoking habits. Additionally, some people just see it as a sign of old age and unable to keep up. However, breathlessness and a chronic cop are the top symptoms of COPD that can help with diagnosis and get treatment started immediately.
What is in the Toolkit?
Inside the toolkit are fact sheets that are designed for the pharmacist and a box house the materials. The fact sheets target those with COPD or those that are at risk for developing the disease. Sign up is easy and available online!
How Do I Use This Material?
Pharmacists across the country indicate that they encounter COPD patients once or twice in a week, possibly more with people that are at risk but without a formal diagnosis. Some indicate they interact with COPD patients daily! The sheets are helpful for patients to get the most out of their doctor visits. Pharmacists can also assist the patients with education and referrals for behavioral counseling.
How Can I Really Help?
Pharmacists are in a unique position where they can assist with care for the COPD patient because they see the broad picture better than individual doctors. Most COPD sufferers also have a multitude of other health issues, including heart disease and diabetes. Heart disease tends to be comorbid in up to 35% of COPD patients. It is also important to note that COPD patients should be receiving a flu and pneumonia vaccination annually because the immunizations play an important role in the overall improved health of a COPD patient.
With 16 million Americans affected, and many others remaining undiagnosed, it’s imperative we reach out and offer the help that we can easily provide. NHLBI is doing what it can to provide material and assistance to pharmacists across the country to help get a diagnosis and effective treatment in a timely manner. By providing this information, we empower our patients to take control of their care and retain an active lifestyle that can add more years to their lives, than if they went undiagnosed.