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Smoking linked to growing number of COPD in PH



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Smoking is the major risk factor for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) which is currently the seventh leading cause of mortality in the Philippines, a pulmonary specialist said.

Dr. Lenora Fernandez, past president of the Philippine College of Chest Physicians (PCCP), sounded the alarm over the prevalence of COPD in the country as there are still around 16 million Filipinos who smoke today.

“COPD can become apparent in smokers 10 to 20 years after the start of smoking. With the number of Filipinos smoking still high, the prevalence of COPD in the country will continue to grow in the next 10 to 20 years also,” said Fernandez.

“[It] is [also] projected to become the third leading cause of death worldwide by 2020,” said Fernandez in a statement.

“Studies showed that smokers can develop COPD, and that 90 percent of those with COPD are smokers,” she added.

Fernandez noted that it was also “already proven that even non-smokers develop COPD in the Philippines,” particularly those household members that depend on firewood and charcoal in cooking their food; and those who are exposed to dusty jobs.

“COPD patients suffer breathlessness and chronic cough, severely affecting lifestyle and productivity,” said Fernandez.

A test called spirometry can detect COPD. A patient who undergo the said test needs to pay around  P600 to P4,000 depending on the hospitals and diagnostic centers, said Fernandez.

Since the apparatus used for the said test called “Spirometer”  costs around P200,000 per unit, some hospitals and private diagnostic centers does not have it yet, said Fernandez.

“Hopefully, the DoH (Department of Health) will provide spirometer to all hospitals maintained by LGUs, using funding from the UHC (Universal Health Care) Act,” she said.

Fernandez said that the PCCP in cooperation with UAP, which is a division of pharmaceutical company, Unilab Inc., as well as their other partners are now conducting seminars, fora, and meetings with stakeholders to raise awareness on COPD, adding that they are also on the works of drafting the “Philippine COPD Guidelines/Pathway.”

“The guidelines will become the standard clinical approach in the detection, diagnosis, and management of COPD across all levels of health care. This will be incorporated in the Universal Health Care Act, so implementation will be from the primary care at the local government unit level up to the specialists,” said Fernandez.

Fernandez said that the initial phase of the draft, which is meant for primary health care providers or the “frontliners” was already submitted by the PCCP to the DoH-Essential Non-Communicable Diseases Division (ENCDD).