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COPD rate revised upwards

Levels of COPD could be four times higher than previously thought with one person in seven over 60 suffering from the disease, according to a new study.

Study leader Dr Timothy Frank, a GP in Manchester and researcher at the North West Lung Research Centre, said: 'This could have major implications for the way future health care and funding is planned.'The challenge for general practice is to be aware of the problem of underdiagnosis, find these cases, correctly diagnose them, and then offer smoking cessation advice, treatment and follow-up.'Using questionnaires and spirometry data, he found the prevalence of COPD in a general practice population was 4.1% – four times higher than previous estimates of 1 to 2%.Dr Frank said the 825-patient study suggested COPD screening should have a lower age limit of 40 years, as the 30-39 age group had a prevalence of only 0.5%. Prevalence was found to be highest in those aged 60 to 69 years, at 14.7%.But Dr Dermot Ryan, a GP in Loughborough, Leicestershire, and General Practice Airways Group member, said: 'I am not sure we should go about finding these people: there is no clear evidence screening people for COPD makes any difference to the outcome. The only reason would be to encourage people to stop smoking, and it would not do that for everyone.'He added that a careful examination of patients aged over 40 with asthma would probably identify many more COPD patients.The study was published online by the Primary Care Respiratory Journal.

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