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      Community pharmacy-based case finding for COPD in urban and rural settings is feasible and effective

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          Background and objective

          Case finding of patients at risk of COPD by community pharmacists could identify a substantial number of people with undiagnosed COPD, but little is known about the feasibility and effectiveness of pharmacy-based COPD case finding using microspirometry. The objective of this study was to assess the feasibility and effectiveness of COPD case-finding service provided by community pharmacists, utilizing a combination of risk assessment questionnaire and microspirometry.


          A 6-month service was conducted in 21 community pharmacies in Australia. Pharmacists trained in COPD case finding, including lung function test (LFT), invited their patients aged ≥35 years with a history of smoking and/or respiratory symptoms to participate. High-risk patients were identified via a COPD risk assessment questionnaire (Initial Screening Questionnaire [ISQ]) and underwent LFT. Pharmacists referred patients with a forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV 1)/forced expiratory volume in 6 seconds (FEV 6) ratio <0.75 to their general practitioner (GP) for further assessment and diagnosis.


          In all, 91 of 167 (54%) patients had an ISQ score >3 indicating high COPD risk. Of the 157 patients who were able to complete LFT, 61 (39%) had an FEV 1/FEV 6 ratio of <0.75 and were referred to their GP. Patients with high ISQ symptoms scores (>3) were at a significantly higher risk of an FEV 1/FEV 6 ratio of <0.75, compared to patients with fewer COPD symptoms. A total of 15 (10%) patients were diagnosed with COPD by their GP. Another eight (5%) patients were diagnosed with other medical conditions and 87% of these were initiated on treatment. Although only half of all screened patients lived in regional areas, 93% of those diagnosed with COPD were from regional areas.


          A brief community pharmacy-based COPD case-finding service utilizing the ISQ, LFT and GP referral is feasible and may lead to identification and diagnosis of a substantial number of people with COPD. This might be an important strategy for reducing the burden of COPD, particularly for those living in rural locations.

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          Most cited references 34

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          Prevalence, severity and underdiagnosis of COPD in the primary care setting.

          Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a common disease with a steadily increasing prevalence and mortality. However, recent epidemiological estimates differ depending on the population studied and methods used. To investigate the prevalence, severity and burden of COPD in a primary care setting. From 4730 patients registered in a single primary care practice, all 2250 patients aged 40 years or more were invited to participate. Participants completed a questionnaire on smoking, respiratory symptoms, education and social status. A physical examination was followed by pre- and post-bronchodilator (BD) spirometry. Of the eligible patients, 1960 (87%) participated. 92% of spirometric tests met the ATS criteria. Airflow limitation was demonstrated in 299 (15%) of the participants pre-BD and in 211 (11%) post-BD. COPD was diagnosed in 183 patients (9.3%). Of these patients, the degree of post-BD airflow limitation was mild in 30.6%, moderate in 51.4%, severe in 15.3% and very severe in 2.7%. Only 18.6% of these patients had previously been diagnosed with COPD; almost all of these had severe or very severe airflow limitation. As a result of the study, a diagnosis of asthma was made in 122 patients. The prevalence and underdiagnosis of COPD in adult patients in this primary care setting made case finding worthwhile. Large numbers of newly detected patients were symptomatic and needed treatment. Limiting investigations to smokers would have reduced the number of COPD diagnoses by 26%.
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            Screening for and early detection of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

            Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a substantially underdiagnosed disorder, with the diagnosis typically missed or delayed until the condition is advanced. Spirometry is the most frequently used pulmonary function test and enables health professionals to make an objective measurement of airflow obstruction and assess the degree to which it is reversible. As a diagnostic test for COPD, spirometry is a reliable, simple, non-invasive, safe, and non-expensive procedure. Early diagnosis of COPD should provide support for smoking cessation initiatives and lead to reduction of the societal burden of the disease, but definitive confirmation of both proves elusive. Despite substantial effort and investment, implementation of quality spirometry is deficient because of several hurdles and limitations, described in this Review. All in all, spirometry is recognised as the essential test for diagnosis and monitoring of COPD.
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              Prevalence and underdiagnosis of COPD by disease severity and the attributable fraction of smoking Report from the Obstructive Lung Disease in Northern Sweden Studies.

              There is a lack of epidemiological data on COPD by disease severity. We have estimated the prevalence and underdiagnosis of COPD by disease severity defined by the British Thoracic Society (BTS) and Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) guidelines. The impact of smoking was evaluated by the population attributable fraction of smoking in COPD. A random sample of 1500 responders of the third postal survey performed in 1996 of the Obstructive Lung Disease in Northern Sweden (OLIN) Studies' first cohort (6610 subjects recruited in 1985) were invited to structured interview and spirometry. One thousand two hundred and thirty-seven subjects (82%) performed spirometry. The prevalence of mild BTS-COPD was 5.3%, moderate 2.2%, and severe 0.6% (GOLD-COPD: mild 8.2%, moderate 5.3%, severe 0.7%, and very severe 0.1%). All subjects with severe COPD were symptomatic, corresponding figures among mild COPD were 88% and 70% (BTS and GOLD), Subjects with severe BTS-COPD reported a physician-diagnosis consistent with COPD in 50% of cases, in mild BTS-COPD 19%, while in mild GOLD-COPD only 5% of cases. The major risk factors, age and smoking, had a synergistic effect on the COPD-prevalence. The Odds Ratio (OR) for having COPD among smokers aged 76-77 years was 59 and 34 (BTS and GOLD) when non-smokers aged 46-47 was used as reference population. Most subjects with COPD have a mild disease. The underdiagnosis is related to disease-severity. Though being symptomatic, only a half of the subjects with severe COPD are properly labelled. Smoking and increasing age were the major risk factors and acted synergistic.

                Author and article information

                Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis
                Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis
                International Journal of COPD
                International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
                Dove Medical Press
                18 September 2017
                : 12
                : 2753-2761
                [1 ]Woolcock Institute of Medical Research, Sydney Medical School
                [2 ]Faculty of Pharmacy, The University of Sydney
                [3 ]Central Sydney Area Health Service, Sydney, NSW, Australia
                Author notes
                Correspondence: Mariam Fathima, Woolcock Institute of Medical Research, The University of Sydney, Level 4, 431 Glebe Point Road, Glebe, Sydney, NSW 2037, Australia, Tel +61 2 9114 0484, Fax +61 2 9114 0014, Email mfat5478@
                © 2017 Fathima et al. This work is published and licensed by Dove Medical Press Limited

                The full terms of this license are available at and incorporate the Creative Commons Attribution – Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License ( By accessing the work you hereby accept the Terms. Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed.

                Original Research

                Respiratory medicine

                screening, case detection, case finding, community pharmacy, copd


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