Astrazeneca responds to COPD crisis with new study

Dr Jasvanti Bhana, AstraZeneca South Africa’s VP for medical and regulatory affairsAccording to World Health Organization (WHO) reports, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is the third leading cause of deaths worldwide. It is also the sixth leading cause of disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) in middle-income countries. This statistic is expected to change to the fifth leading cause worldwide by 2030, making the significance of the disease quite evident.

In response, AstraZeneca has launched a cross-sectional study of patients with severe COPD to assess patient perception of symptom variability in Middle Eastern and African (MEA) countries. As a global research-based biopharmaceutical company, AstraZeneca has a vested interest in the development of life changing respiratory medications.

COPD is characterised by persistent airflow limitation associated with a chronic inflammation of the small airways (Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease GOLD 2015/16 guidelines). This is manifested in multiple respiratory symptoms, including dyspnea, cough, sputum production, wheezing and chest tightness. Anorexia, fatigue, and weight loss may also be expressed in more severe cases of the disease. AstraZeneca’s non-interventional cross-sectional study of GOLD risk category C and D patients with severe COPD is primarily intended to assess patient perception of daily and weekly symptoms and the impact on daily life activities.

According to Dr Jasvanti Bhana, AstraZeneca South Africa’s VP for medical and regulatory affairs, it is believed that the spike in COPD mortality rates is directly linked to the expanding smoking epidemic, exposure to biomass fuel – particularly in the developing world – reduced mortality from other common causes of death (ischemic heart disease, infectious diseases), and an ageing population. Adding to this, she states that regardless of the cause and contributing factors, AstraZeneca is a research-based organisation and committed to being part of a solution that eases the healthcare burden through studies such as COPVAR.

MEA region at the heart of the research

‘Although COPD symptoms have been extensively reviewed in the literature, daily and weekly variation of symptoms and their impact on daily life activities have received less attention, especially in the MEA region,’ says Bhana. ‘No published study in the MEA region has investigated the fluctuation of COPD symptoms, the COPD treatment patterns and their consistency with the GOLD guidelines.’

This non-interventional study also aims to explore the current practice in management of stable GOLD C and D COPD patients. ‘On conclusion of this study we must be able to describe the current treatment practice for the management of GOLD C and D COPD in MEA countries and their adherence to the GOLD 2016 guidelines,’ says Bhana. ‘We also want to draw comparisons between the Gold categories C and D to uncover patient perceptions of symptom variability and their impacts. Identifying demographic, behavioural and clinical factors associated with symptom variability is another important study outcome sought by our NIS researchers.’

With South Africa now included in the study – there are nine participating countries. Other countries taking part include Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Qatar, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. It is expected that approximately 3 085 stable GOLD C and D COPD patients will be recruited during the 12 month multi-centre study, of which 350 will be South African.

‘Data collation – directly gathered from patients via self-administered questionnaires – will take place during a one-visit assessment; no follow ups will be performed. By design, there also are no specific tests or examinations carried out for the purpose of the study.’

R&D crucial to pharmaceutical innovation

Bhana concludes: ‘R&D is the life blood of medical solutions that save lives. Despite its pressures, we embrace the significant scientific leadership role we have achieved as a result of ethical, high quality research outputs, and South Africa is at the forefront of research for our group.’

For 40 years, AstraZeneca has pushed the boundaries of science in respiratory disease. Starting with its first bronchodilator, through to its currently marketed products and a pipeline of respiratory products for both asthma and COPD, AstraZeneca scientists continue to transform disease management and patient outcomes in asthma and COPD. The company continues to follow the science by developing targeted inhaled and biologic therapies, unique drug combinations, and devices to ensure the right treatments for the right patients.

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