June 27, 2012

2008 Nov 12 – The Cost of Breathing Uneasy

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The Cost of Breathing Uneasy: $100 billion1

Every 30 minutes another Australian dies from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), a lung disease affecting 2.1 million Australians which will escalate to 4.5 million by 20501 with catastrophic repercussions on the Australian healthcare system and economy

Wednesday 12 November 2008… The Australian Lung Foundation today launched a new Access Economics report detailing the growing problem of COPD, including its economic impact upon Australians and cost effective solutions to reduce the burden of this disease.

COPD is a long term disease of the lungs which causes shortness of breath and includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis.2 It is one of the leading causes of death and preventable hospitalisation in Australia3 and places a heavy burden on patients and the healthcare system.1,4 While there is no cure the disease can be managed to help people breathe easier, stay out of hospital and improve their quality of life,5 particularly if the disease is identified and managed early.

The Economic impact of COPD and cost effective solutions report estimates that COPD, a disease which is more common in any year than most types of cancer, heart disease and diabetes,1 will cost Australians and the economy nearly $100 billion in 2008.1

“COPD is one of the biggest health problems currently facing our nation. It carries with it an enormous cost to government, the taxpayer, and to people with COPD, their families and carers. Alarmingly, if nothing is done now to acknowledge and address this chronic disease, around 4.5 million Australians may have COPD by 2050. Of these Australians with COPD, 2.6 million would have moderate to severe COPD where the impact and associated costs are highest,” said Professor Peter Frith, Head of Respiratory Services at Southern Adelaide Heath Service.

Furthermore, according to the report women will continue to bear a large burden of COPD in the years ahead.1 “The report shows COPD is a growing health concern for women who account for 57% of people living with COPD in Australia today,” explained Professor Frith.

Tragically the report found one Australian will die from COPD every 30 minutes, equating to a total of 16,004 deaths in 2008.1 It also found that 876,000 Australians have early stage COPD, and if left unrecognised many of these will go on to develop moderate or severe COPD.1 Of concern, past evidence indicates that up to one in three Australians with spirometry-proven COPD were not aware that they had the disease,3 which means they are not taking the important steps to manage the condition.

Within the report cost effective solutions have been identified, including diagnosis and early intervention and improved access to treatment, which will help cost effectively manage COPD in Australia.1 Furthermore, there is strong medical evidence which shows that diagnosis, combined with disease management programs at the early disease stages could reduce COPD’s burden, improving quality of life, slowing disease deterioraton, reducing mortality and importantly keeping people out of hospital.5-9

“Early diagnosis, such as a simple lung function test combined with proven treatment options, like pulmonary rehabilitation (a program of education and gentle exercise that improves lung function), are critical as they offer patients the best chance to reduce the overall impact of COPD and slow disease progression to more severe stages,” continued Professor Frith.

“COPD is significantly under diagnosed; most people will not discover that they have COPD until they have had their first, and expensive, hospital admission,” said Mr William Darbishire, CEO, The Australian Lung Foundation. “A national approach is urgently needed to tackle this major public health issue. This new report creates a platform for action and The Australian Lung Foundation is delighted to be working with the Government, clinicians and the community to raise awareness of the disease, increase early diagnosis and better access to optimal treatment therapies,” said Mr Darbishire.

“Often the symptoms of COPD are mistaken as signs of ageing, lack of fitness or asthma. If you, or someone close to you, experience shortness of breath with activities or exertion, or have a repetitive cough with phlegm / mucus most days, especially if you have a history of cigarette smoking, it is very important to visit your GP for a simple lung function test,” concluded Professor Frith.

People with COPD and their carers can contact The Australian Lung Foundation for information to help them understand and best manage their condition, as well as to put them in contact with local support groups. For further information, help and support please call for free on 1800 654 301 or visit The Australian Lung Foundation website at http://www.lungfoundation.com.au/

–Ends —

NOTE: The Australian Lung Foundation is discussing the research report and its implications for Australians at 9am on Wednesday 12 November at Parliament House, Canberra.

For further information or to schedule an interview, please contact:

Sarah Counsell Hayley Dowling
(03) 9426 1313 or 0412 780 992 (02) 9928 1521 or 0404 852 884
sarah.counsell@bm.com hayley.dowling@bm.com



About COPD:
  • Please refer to separate fact sheet for more information on COPD.
About the ‘Economic Impact of COPD and cost effective solutions’ report:
  • Please refer to separate fact sheet for more information on the research, its findings and the methodology.
  • Full copies of the report ‘Economic Impact of COPD and cost effective solutions’ report will be available from 12 November 2008 at: http://www.lungfoundation.com.au/, or http://www.accesseconomics.com.au/ or through Sarah Counsell or Hayley Dowling (see contact details above).

About The Australian Lung Foundation:

The Australian Lung Foundation is the premier organisation for lung health in Australia, providing medical and support group representation nationwide. The Australian Lung Foundation was established in 1990 to reduce the significant and debilitating cost of lung disease and is the leading facilitator of research and professional development in lung disease. The Australian Lung Foundation offers LungNet – a national network of patient support groups for people with COPD and other lung conditions.  Patients are supported with information via http://www.lungfoundation.com.au/ , a quarterly health education newsletter, telephone information and toll free support hotline (1800 654 301).


1. Access Economics. Economic impact of CODP and cost effective solutions report, October 2008.

2. Tashkin DP, Clark VA, Coulson AH et al. The UCLA population studies of chronic obstructive respiratory disease. VIII. Effects of smoking cessation on lung function: a prospective study of a free-living population. Am Rev Respir Dis 1984;130: 707-15

3. Matheson MC, Abeysena C, Raven JM, Skoric B, Johns DP, Abramson MJ, Walters EH. “How have we been managing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in Australia?” Intern Med J 2006; 36:92-99.

4. Crockett AJ, Cranston JM, Moss JR. Economic Case Statement. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Australian Lung Foundation, Sept 2002

5. Abramson M et al. Managing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Aust Prescr 2007;30:64-7. Available at: http://www.australianprescriber.com/magazine/30/3/64/7

6. Lacasse Y, Brosseau L, Milne S et al. Pulmonary rehabilitation for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Cochrane Database of Systematic Review. 2001; Issue 4

7. Griffiths TL, Phillips CJ, Davies S et alCost effectiveness of an outpatient multidisciplinary pulmonary rehabilitation programmeThorax  2001;56:779-784

8. Golmohammadi K, Jacobs P, Sin DD.  Economic evaluation of a community-based pulmonary rehabilitation program for chronic obstructive pulmonary diseaseLung  2004;182:187-196

9. The Australian Lung Foundation. COPD Patient Survey May 2006.