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Atlantis...venue for the COPD symposium

Earlier this week after dinner I got coaxed into meeting with a couple of specialist doctors on Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) initiated by Virtue guys who felt that since I didn’t have time to volunteer at the Down’s Syndrome centre these days, I should become an ambassador on health and write about medical issues that affect people in the UAE.

OK. Enough with the smirks now. I know I generally write about flimsy light stuff but once in a while I can get serious enough if I feel like doing a bit of CSR bit in terms of creating awareness about a problem that anyone can be a victim of. Anyway, Rajah (Bless her gentle soul) decided that she would drive me to Atlantis (We Fijians are always ready to help people for good causes) so we could dine afterwards at one of the funky Atlantis food places.

Basically I got a quick update on proceedings of a medical symposium co-organised by the Emirates Allergy and Respiratory Society, in collaboration with Takeda Pharmaceuticals FZCO. Their objective is to warn people that while most chronic diseases in the UAE are being controlled, the Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is rapidly increasing, with 4 per cent of the Abu Dhabi population affected by it, according to recent study done by Dr. Ashraf H. Alzaabi, Head of Respiratory Division, Zayed Military Hospital, Abu Dhabi, UAE.

Dr. Mirza Ali Al Sayegh, President, Emirates Allergy and Respiratory Society said a new study on COPD is being conducted by the Society to cover the whole GCC region and its details would be announced soon.

Dr. Bassam Mahboub, Consultant Pulmonary Medicine, Asst. Prof. University of Sharjah, Head of Allergy and Respiratory Department, Dubai Hospital and Vice Chair Emirates Allergy and Respiratory Society Dubai, UAE said: “COPS is currently the fifth leading cause of death worldwide. The prevalence of smoking in the UAE is around 23 percent. The 4 percent figure of the COPD prevalence will rise as the smokers’ group in the UAE grows older.”

I briefly met with Professor Leonardo Fabbri, an expert from the University of Modena in Italy, Reggio Emilia who said “The WHO estimates 80 million people have moderate to severe COPD worldwide. Three million people died from COPD, which corresponded to five percent of all deaths globally. Every hour COPD is estimated to kill more than 250 people worldwide, which means that COPD kills someone every 15 seconds.’

Dr. Al Sayegh alerted participants that COPD is an under-diagnosed, life-threatening lung disease. COPD is used to describe chronic lung diseases in which breathing is severely restricted because of lung damage and inflammation. He emphasized that the disease is preventable and can be managed but it is progressive.

Dr. Osama Al-Nawasany, Medical Affairs Director, Takeda Pharmaceuticals FZCO, Dubai mentioned that one of the most promising new treatments for COPD is Roflumilast, a first-in-class phosphodiesterase (PDE4) inhibitor that is the only licensed oral therapy that targets COPD-specific inflammation.

The symposium highlighted that many people with COPD continue to suffer from frequent exacerbations and an increased risk of a more rapid disease progression. Smoking cigarettes is the major cause of COPD in 80 per cent of cases. Other causes include: pollution generated by a number of domestic heaters and air pollution. Besides smoking cessation, there are several treatments, which should be closely monitored by qualified physicians. Self-medication is not an option for this disease.