July 18, 2014

Novel approach to helping long-term smokers

A novel program to identify and support long-term smokers with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is being trialled by Australian researchers.

COPD, a chronic lung condition, is a major public health concern affecting up to 50 per cent of smokers. In its early stages many will be unaware they have the disease. However, people who develop significant COPD will eventually get to a stage where they have difficultly showering, making a cup of tea, and may end up needing to rely on home oxygen.

RADICALS (‘Review of Airway Dysfunction and Interdisciplinary Community-based care in Adult Long-term Smokers’) is a Monash University-led study examining a new approach to COPD. RADICALS tests a program promoting early diagnosis, home-based exercise, quit-smoking support, and medication management.

Dr Johnson George, Centre for Medicine Use and Safety at Monash University, said seeking appropriate management for the disease early was important to slow down deterioration.

“One in five patients who visits a general practice is a smoker, however at the moment COPD is not being diagnosed or managed adequately at the primary care level,” Dr George said.

“Most people are not diagnosed with COPD until they’ve lost almost 50 per cent of their lung function. Even those who have been diagnosed may not be receiving the best treatment. Currently, less than two per cent of Australians with COPD are undertaking pulmonary rehabilitation.”

Dr George said the RADICALS program would use an inter-disciplinary approach to help increase the quality of life for those with COPD.

“We are combining the expertise of different health professionals such as GPs, pharmacists, nurses and physiotherapists so that patients receive tailored smoking cessation support, home-based rehabilitation, and help with their medication,” Dr George said.

The program will help smokers quit smoking, and aid in the early diagnosis of COPD and its appropriate management. RADICALS aims to reduce healthcare costs and improve people’s quality of life.

“If we can demonstrate the value of this program, it could be implemented in primary care settings across Australia,” Dr George said.

Investigators from the University of New South Wales, La Trobe University and University of Newcastle are collaborators on this study, funded through the NHMRC Partnership Project Grant scheme.
The study has the additional support of Lung Foundation Australia, Inner East Melbourne Medicare Local, and Boehringer Ingelheim.

Lung Foundation Australia has information on smoking and smoking cessation available, please click here. If you would like further information please contact free-call 1800 654 301.