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New Developments In Treating and Diagnosing COPD

Photo credit: Tbel Abuseridze, https://unsplash.com/photos/eBW1nlFdZFwResearch continues to explore new ways to diagnose and treat COPD, and how medication and pharmacists can serve as valuable resources for COPD patients, providing information about the latest therapies.

New developments in treating COPD are happening on several fronts. For example, research is exploring ways to diagnose COPD early on before significant damage is done, with one path of research focused on non-invasive imaging known as Parametric Response Mapping (PRM). Through PRM, medical professionals can identify small airway abnormalities.

Blood tests, used to target asthma therapy, are also being studied for their use in COPD therapy. The tests measure the number of eosinophils to determine which patients might benefit from biologic drugs called IL-5 antagonists.

Stem cell therapy and less invasive methods of surgery also are being considered. Standard surgery to remove damaged lung sections previously required a large chest incision, but Northwestern Memorial Hospital recently became the first U.S. hospital to use a robotic device, LVRS, requiring only three small incisions to remove damaged lung sections, reducing pain and scarring.

COPD patients may benefit from pulmonary rehab, where patients learn about the benefits of exercise, vaccinations, and nutritional counseling. Further, COPD patients often receive multiple medications and inhalers to treat symptoms, which can lead to misuse and prohibitively expensive therapy.

“New therapies do not directly apply to pharmacists since they are medical procedures rather than medications,” said Lydia Wang, PharmD, a clinical pharmacist coordinator with Atrium Health, “but, pharmacists still play a role in being knowledgeable about these new therapies to better counsel and educate both patients and providers when selecting an individualized course of treatment for patients.” 

Wang argues that pharmacists are directly connected to patients and providers, so they can help them select the most effective medication and counsel on proper administration, side effects, and disposal.

“Not only can pharmacists provide extensive education and counseling about the disease state and medications, pharmacists play a crucial role in recommending guideline-directed, evidence-based medications to patients and providers to optimize medication regimens,” said Wang. “Pharmacists play a large role in realizing and recommending pulmonary rehab when appropriate, which can greatly improve patients’ COPD control.”

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