Obstructive Lung Disease Costs America Billions

New study estimates nearly $833 billion spent over 20 years

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MONDAY, May 22, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Medical costs related to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) will near $833 billion in the United States over the next 20 years, according to a new analysis.

COPD results from persistent obstruction of the airways caused by severe emphysema or chronic bronchitis. It is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States and, in 2002, it claimed the lives of 120,000 Americans. An estimated 10.7 million adults in the United States have COPD, but there are many more undiagnosed cases, the study noted. Smoking is the primary risk factor for COPD, and about 80 percent to 90 percent of COPD deaths are caused by smoking.

The new study found that COPD-linked costs will top $176.6 billion over the next five years and $389.2 billion over the next 10 years, according to the mathematical model used in the study, part of the Burden of Obstructive Lung Disease (BOLD) initiative examining the prevalence and burden of COPD worldwide.

"As the prevalence of COPD continues to grow, the costs associated with the disease will continue to rise and are projected to consume a significant portion of the health-care budget over the next 20 years," lead researcher Todd Lee, a research assistant professor at Northwestern University in Chicago and Hines VA Hospital, said in a prepared statement.

"One of the reasons we developed this model was to raise awareness about the cost of COPD in the future and make health-care decisionmakers realize the impact of COPD has," Lee said. "It's a real eye-opener, and hopefully, it will lead to more discussions about what we should be doing now that will have an impact 20 years down the road, such as a greater emphasis on smoking prevention and cessation," he added.

Researchers were expected to present the study Monday at the American Thoracic Society international conference, in San Diego.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about COPD.

SOURCE: American Thoracic Society, news release, May 22, 2006

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