Today is World COPD Day. A day aimed at raising awareness of COPD, a chronic disease of the lungs, which affects around 329 million people worldwide.
I think I have the best job in the company; taking the molecules discovered in early research and transforming them into medicines.
Although understanding of COPD has improved significantly in recent years, we are constantly seeking new avenues to explore in our relentless pursuit for better breathing. Pioneering studies where we have worked with the healthcare community to effectively build a research city are revolutionising industry’s approach to clinical trials. We are also exploring novel scientific concepts such as whether there are ‘treatable traits’ in COPD that would allow us to use simple blood tests to determine the right treatment for the right patient. Today we have over 13,500 patients enrolled in active clinical studies investigating COPD in almost 40 countries. The insights from these studies are invaluable to our R&D and clinical teams and are helping in our efforts to meet individual patient needs in a more personalised way.
I most admire the patients who decide to participate in clinical studies. They put their health in our hands in the hopes of advancing our understanding and treatment for others. I cannot think of a more noble part of our industry.
From the scientists in our labs, to the line operators in our manufacturing sites, and our medical experts, our people have been working relentlessly to help patients with COPD for almost half a century.
Our research has advanced the scientific understanding of COPD, providing evidence that has evolved the way the disease is managed so patients get the treatments they need. Our medicines, patient support tools and innovation in inhaler technology have helped millions of people around the world. On World COPD Day we hear employees explain what fighting COPD means for them and how their work is helping patients feel healthier and lead the lives they want.
Patient engagement: a personalised approach
Gaining insights from patients who face the day to day challenge of life with COPD shapes all aspects of my role. Understanding what’s important to them and their doctors, and how we can help to make their lives easier is so important. We often hear patients don’t want to be defined by their condition, and I try and keep that in the front of my mind. It’s an amazing feeling when we hear positive feedback from patients for whom our support has made a difference.
Every person with COPD is different, with different needs, different challenges and different goals. Understanding this, and providing support to help meet these needs is the foundation of our work. COPDchoices is our latest example of this support - a new platform to provide inspiration, information and resources for those living with COPD.
I don’t think COPD is one size fits all. I think you’ve got to map out what’s right for you. It takes an awful lot of adjusting and adapting and planning, but you have got the capacity to manage COPD.
We couldn’t do what we do without understanding the lives of people like Ann, Bob & Rebecca. By sharing their stories, we hope to encourage others to have a more positive outlook and approach to their condition. Their feedback helps us understand their needs and informs all aspects of our work.
Partnering with the medical community
Engaging with the healthcare community is another integral part of our work and goes hand in hand with understanding patients’ needs. Every year we work with a wide range of healthcare professionals to get their insights on how they manage disease and what’s important for their patients.
In-house faculty of 9 Respiratory Global Medical Experts
We continually run internal medical education programmes to discuss the latest themes in respiratory disease management. We have a large team of in-house medical experts on hand to give practical information and advice. This includes our nine Global Medical Experts, a scientific faculty of specialists in respiratory disease. This partnership approach has led to important advances in the way we understand and research respiratory disease.
During the past decade tremendous progress has been achieved in the understanding of COPD. We understand now that it can be preventable, but it's also a treatable disorder. Before that time, it was a challenge to see patients with COPD, because we were thinking nothing could be done. That has changed totally.
Embracing mobile technology & optimising inhaler design
A major innovation for the future is going to be chipping inhalers to allow clinicians to understand patients’ adherence and improve their consultations. This will form part of a digital ecosystem which allows feedback to provider organisations, hospitals, feedback to patients. We think this will be a major breakthrough in putting adherence and the patient at the centre of management of asthma and of COPD.
We believe that we are on a journey towards more personalised medicine, to better meet patient needs. At first glance, an inhaler may look like a simple piece of plastic. But inside, a complicated process and an internal ‘engine’ operate seamlessly to ensure the patient receives exactly the right dose of medicine every time.
Today’s inhalers are the result of decades of research, design and cutting-edge engineering. They’re one of medicine’s great inventions, and we have a long heritage in the area starting in the 1960s when we first began making inhalers at our Ware site in Hertfordshire, UK.
It’s a team effort
We cannot fight COPD alone. The relationships we have built with the patient, healthcare and scientific communities are vital in providing us with insights and support we need if we are to be successful in our relentless pursuit of better breathing.