COPD Ranked Third Leading Cause of Death in the U.S., CDC Reports

Previously projected to reach this level in 2020, COPD advances twelve years sooner

WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) released a report today, “Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2008,” confirming that Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) became the third leading cause of death in the U.S. for 2008.

“It’s unacceptable that COPD has gone from fourth to the third leading cause twelve years sooner than originally projected," says John W. Walsh, president and co-founder of the COPD Foundation. "This wake-up call intensifies our declaration of war on COPD and points to the importance of increased awareness, prevention, detection and treatment to reduce the burden of COPD.”

The report states that the mortality rates are the result of chronic lower respiratory diseases (CLRD) such as chronic bronchitis, emphysema and bronchiectasis. CLRD increased by 7.8 percent while stroke fell 3.8 percent. The report notes that the increase could be due to a change in rules governing the coding and classification of deaths in 2008. Before the change, many deaths that were previously assigned to COPD/unspecified, pneumonia and other acute lower respiratory infections are now classified under CLRD.

“COPD and it's related conditions have not experienced the same decrease we have seen in mortality rates for heart disease, cancer and stroke,” says David Mannino, M.D., director of the Pulmonary Epidemiology Research Laboratory at the University of Kentucky and former chief of Analytic Epidemiology, Section Air Pollution and Respiratory Health Activity at the National Center for Environmental Health of the CDC. “This points to the need for additional resources to target COPD research and interventions.”

The COPD Foundation continues to deliver a message of hope.

“COPD is almost always preventable and almost always treatable, but in order to treat it, it must be diagnosed,” says Byron Thomashow, M.D., medical director at New York Presbyterian Hospital and chairman of the COPD Foundation. “The COPD Foundation urges folks at risk to get their lung function tested.”

With a simple test, individuals experiencing the symptoms of COPD (including breathlessness, wheezing and chronic coughing) can take action to prevent the worsening of symptoms.

About COPD Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. and the only chronic disease growing in mortality. It affects approximately 24 million Americans but only 12 million are diagnosed. COPD includes chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and adult onset (refractory) asthma. Symptoms include breathlessness, wheezing, and chronic coughing. Visit or call 1-866-316-COPD (2673).


COPD Foundation
Ifdy Perez, 1-866-731-2673, ext. 398
[email protected]

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