World COPD Day Spotlights Treatment Access Challenge

An estimated 210 million people worldwide suffer from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD, the third leading cause of death in the United States. This November 15, on World COPD Day, advocates and patients worldwide seek to raise awareness and to advocate for access to treatment.

COPD is most often caused by inhaling pollutants like tobacco, second-hand smoke, fumes, chemicals and dust. Signs and symptoms of COPD include increased breathlessness, frequent coughing, wheezing and tightness in the chest.

COPD has no cure. So consistent treatment, in coordination with lifestyle changes, offers the best opportunity to slow the disease’s progress and improve the quality of life for people with COPD. But several barriers may stand between patients and their treatment.

  • High co-pays may lead patients to abandon their prescription, delay refills or skip doses.
  • Non-medical switching can disrupt treatment.  It occurs when a health plan’s coverage design drives a patient to switch to a cheaper medication.
  • Co-pay coupons that help patients pay for their prescription may be reduced or eliminated by health insurers, pricing patients out of their regular medication.

COPD patients who are switched to a lower-cost medication not only have their care regime interrupted, but actually end up costing their health plans more, according to an IfPA brief. The analysis found that patients who did not switch medications had the lowest per-member, per-month spending. COPD patients with multiple switches, however, yielded higher non-drug spending.

Day-to-day management of a chronic condition like COPD is challenging enough without adding the burdens of high co-pays and non-medical switching. World COPD Day offers an opportunity to increase awareness of these treatment barriers and take steps to reduce them, helping patients maintain the consistent care they need.

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