Although chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a major global health burden there is a lack of patient awareness of disease severity, particularly in relation to exacerbations.
We conducted a global patient survey using an innovative, internet-based methodology to gain insight into patient perceptions of COPD and exacerbations in a real-world sample typical of today’s working-age COPD population.
Two thousand patients with COPD (53%), chronic bronchitis (52%) and/or emphysema (22%) from 14 countries completed an online questionnaire developed by the authors. The Medical Research Council (MRC) breathlessness scale was used to delineate symptom severity. Over three quarters of patients (77%) had experienced an exacerbation, with 27% of MRC 1 and 2 patients and 52% of MRC 3, 4 and 5 patients requiring hospitalization as a result of an exacerbation. While a majority of MRC 1 and 2 patients (51%) reported being back to normal within a few days of an exacerbation, 23% of MRC 3, 4 and 5 patients took several weeks to return to normal and 6% never fully recovered. A high proportion of patients (39%) took a ‘wait and see’ approach to exacerbations.
Despite the high prevalence of exacerbations and their negative impact on quality of life, 73% of MRC 1 and 2 patients and 64% of MRC 3, 4 and 5 patients felt that they had control of their COPD. However, 77% of all patients were worried about their long-term health, and 38% of MRC 1 and 2 patients and 59% of MRC 3, 4 and 5 patients feared premature death due to COPD.