Doctors urge accurate diagnosis and effective treatment of Asthma, COPD and IPF in MENA

Respiratory ForumDubai, United Arab Emirates, April 12, 2015: Boehringer Ingelheim, a leading pharmaceutical company, organized the 4th Regional Respiratory Expert Forum, to highlight the unmet challenges in the management of chronic respiratory diseases like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) in the Middle East and North Africa region. Chronic respiratory diseases affect millions of people in the region and with effective treatment; the complications and suffering can be controlled. Held at Istanbul- Turkey between 10-12 April, the forum saw renowned international and regional experts come together to highlight late diagnosis and misdiagnosis as the key challenges towards controlling the prevalence, encouraging accurate awareness on each of the condition aiming to provide to accurate diagnosis and improving patients outcomes through effective treatment.

COPD is a common lung disease in which there is a progressive narrowing of the airways, leading to breathing difficulties. It is the 4th leading cause of death worldwide and further increases in its prevalence and mortality are expected in the coming decades, being the third cause of death in the world by 2030.5 In the MENA region, around 49.5% of the total population affected by COPD remains untreated and 47.5% experience lung attack, a state of disease flare-up or exacerbation when the symptoms quickly get worse.8 Heavy economic and social burden of COPD and asthma is noticed due to late diagnosis. In UAE, the total direct cost of treating 139,092 asthma patients was estimated to be AED 105 Million (USD 29 Million) in Abu Dhabi as compared to AED 88 Million (USD 24 Million) in Dubai. Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF)a rare, debilitating and fatal lung disease with high mortality affecting patients over the age of 50 and more men than women.9 It causes permanent scarring of the lungs, difficulty in breathing and decreases the amount of oxygen the lungs can supply to the major organs of the body. Approximately half of the patients die within 2-3 years after diagnosis.

Symptomatic control over asthma is far from optimal in the Gulf and Near East with high frequency of emergency room visits by patients: 28% in UAE, 58% in Oman, 21% in Lebanon, 89% in Kuwait, 63% in Jordan. Poor control over the disease is attributed to wrong diagnosis, incorrect medication, smoking, concomitant rhinitis, unintentional or intentional non-adherence to treatment. The key risk factors for asthma, COPD and IPF in the MENA region has been identified as air pollutants, toxic gases, chemicals, smoking(cigarettes, water pipes, shisha) and sandstorms.10

Dr. Medhat Abdel Khalek, Professor of Pulmonary Diseases and Critical Care Medicine, Head of Pulmonary Hypertension Unit, Cairo University, Egypt commented, “We often come across COPD cases having been previously misdiagnosed as asthma, leading to inappropriate treatment and suboptimal patient outcomes. The misdiagnosis is often attributed to diagnostic confusion between COPD and asthma in primary care patients. Increased awareness of the differences between the two conditions is needed to promote optimal patient management and treatment.”

Dr. Habib Ghedira, – Head of Respiratory department at Abderrahmane Mami Hospital of Ariana, Tunisia commented, “The unmet needs in asthma management continue to prevail leading to persistent symptoms, exacerbations, hospitalization, time off work and mortality. Despite patients being introduced to maintenance therapies at least 40% of patients remain symptomatic. New maintenance therapy is the need of the hour to be able to help patients derive optimal outcomes”

Dr. Luca Richeldi, Professor of Respiratory Medicine and Chair of Interstitial Lung Disease at the University of Southampton, UK, commented, “IPF is a rare disease and we often come across patients who had not heard about the disease at all until diagnosed. Diagnosing IPF can be difficult because it requires specific diagnostic testing such as lung imaging using a high-resolution CT scan. The average time from first symptoms to diagnosis is between one and two years. Late diagnosis is a major challenge as acute IPF exacerbations significantly reduces a patient’s chances of survival. Early and accurate diagnosis of IPF is important to manage the condition and improve quality of life. ”

Mohamed Meshref, Medical Director at Boehringer Ingelheim Middle East, Turkey and Africa, introduced the company’s R&D efforts to develop innovative medical solution for the diseases, saying “Research and development (R&D) has been the foundation of Boehringer Ingelheim’s success and continues to be the major driver of innovative new medicines that help improve patient’s lives and address unmet therapeutic needs. Drawing upon our decades of worldwide R&D experience in respiratory therapies we continue to invest to develop new molecules, addressing new indications, better compliance, all aimed at plugging the gap formed by unmet medical needs.”

The forum saw participation from over 100 leading regional and international experts who engaged in lectures, panel discussions and interactive sessions to bring forth the latest scientific advances in the treatment and management of these respiratory diseases. While highlighting solutions towards managing the unmet needs, the experts encouraged early identification of the symptoms accurately and adherence to treatment for patients as the most important measures toward controlling prevalence.

Boehringer Ingelheim

The Boehringer Ingelheim group is one of the world’s 20 leading pharmaceutical companies. Headquartered in Ingelheim, Germany, Boehringer Ingelheim operates globally with 142 affiliates and a total of more than 47,400 employees. The focus of the family-owned company, founded in 1885, is researching, developing, manufacturing and marketing new medications of high therapeutic value for human and veterinary medicine.

Taking social responsibility is an important element of the corporate culture at Boehringer Ingelheim. This includes worldwide involvement in social projects, such as the initiative “Making more Health” and caring for the employees. Respect, equal opportunities and reconciling career and family form the foundation of the mutual cooperation. In everything it does, the company focuses on environmental protection and sustainability.

In 2013, Boehringer Ingelheim achieved net sales of about 14.1 billion euros. R&D expenditure corresponds to 19.5% of its net sales.

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