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Watch & Learn: COPD screening and management for primary care pharmacists

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COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in Canada and is the only chronic disease where mortality statistics are still worsening. 

By Dorothy Pardalis, BSc.Phm. CDE, CAE

Approximately 80 per cent of COPD cases occur in current or past smokers. Over half of the individuals with COPD don’t even realize they are affected. The numbers point to an important role for pharmacists in helping to identify these individuals so that management can be started as early as possible.

COPD is responsible for about 13 per cent of hospitalizations, and more women are affected by COPD than men. Only 59 per cent of the Canadian population has heard of COPD, which speaks to the importance of raising awareness about this deadly disease.

As the health professionals patients see most often, pharmacists have a critical role to play in identification of patients who should be referred on for assessment for COPD.  Since the disease evolves slowly, changes aren’t as easily noticed and disease can be advanced by the time patients seek help from their physician.

How can pharmacists help identify patients at risk for COPD, and help them manage their condition through non-drug, smoking cessation, and pharmacological strategies?

  • Hold staff meetings to discuss opportunities for identifying individuals at risk of COPD, especially smokers or ex-smokers over 40 years of age.
  • Note your patients who suffer from chronic cough, mucus, shortness of breath, wheezing, and frequent colds that persist.
  • Document smoking status for all patients.
  • Offer OTC consultations for cough meds.
  • Hold lung age clinics and point-of-care testing, including regular inhaler instruction and adherence follow-up.
  • Promote your COPD/respiratory expertise to local health professionals.
  • Provide community education presentations about COPD at seniors’ and other appropriate events.