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The debate about whether asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are
distinct clinical syndromes is not new; there is heightened interest in understanding
the group of individuals with obstructive lung disease who seem to have elements of
both conditions because recent studies have demonstrated increased risk for respiratory
events and exacerbations. We describe the clinical characteristics of this subtype
of disease and suggest 4 working definitions of individuals who would fall into the
asthma-COPD overlap category. Understanding the mechanisms underlying these subtypes
will hopefully lead into a better understanding of therapeutic strategies that can
target specific pathobiologic pathways.