Half a million Malaysian suffer from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), yet the awareness is low

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Malaysia partners with Lung Foundation of Malaysia (LFM) to raise awareness on Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), in conjunction with World COPD Day 2016, themed "Breathe In The Knowledge", which falls on 16 November.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, also known as COPD, is a progressive lung disease that makes a person feels increasingly difficult to breathe.[1] The condition mostly occurs in people aged 40 years and above and is mainly caused by smoking and smog in the atmosphere.2Common symptoms are breathlessness (a “need” for air), excessive phlegm production, as well as chronic cough.[2]

It is estimated that 500,000 Malaysians have COPD [3] and many of them are suffering in silence. Patients often misread their increased breathlessness and coughing as symptoms of asthma or even as ‘smoker’s cough’;[4] others may mistakenly assume the symptoms as signs of ageing. Many cases also go unnoticed as COPD can develop for years without any noticeable signs of shortness of breath.1The lack of awareness of the disease contributes to late diagnosis of COPD.

In Malaysia, COPD is ranked fifth in terms of disease burden and this is reflected in hospital admission rates for COPD attack.[5] At times, people who live with COPD experience acute exacerbations - an episode when breathing gets worse than usual, in some cases, patients might need to be admitted to the hospital.1In order to prevent the disease from progressing further, it is crucial patients recognise early warning signs and seek early treatment. 

“Over the years, there have been many educational initiatives around COPD, yet there are still many undiagnosed COPD cases in Malaysia. There is a need to continue awareness and educational programmes to increase early detection and better management of COPD. Hence, Lung Foundation of Malaysia is collaborating with GSK to launch patient educational materials that is simple to read and understand in hope of increasing early detection and diagnosis,” said Dato’ Dr. Zainudin bin Md. Zin, Consultant Physician of Internal and Respiratory Medicine in KPJ Damansara Specialist Hospital, and Chairman of the Lung Foundation of Malaysia.

The prevalence of tobacco smoking and air pollution in Asia Pacific continue to contribute to incidences of COPD [6]. In recent years, COPD is no longer a man’s disease,1 but it affects men and women almost equally due to the increase in tobacco use among women.[7] While there is no cure for COPD, progression of the disease may be delayed with smoking cessation and avoiding exposure to other noxious agents.[8]

“As we know, the main cause of COPD is smoking, but it is not easy for smokers to give up their habit. There is no cure for COPD; therefore, to manage their condition smokers must quit smoking. This is to prevent their lung functions from irreversible damage. It is important to educate them about the damage that smoking can cause to their health and support them in their journey of quitting,” said Lung Foundation Trustee, Datuk Dr. Aziah Ahmad Mahayiddin.

With a strong heritage in the respiratory space, GSK recognises the importance of early diagnosis and treatment, which is crucial to the management of COPD and better patient’s quality of life. Individuals experiencing symptoms such as breathlessness, chronic cough, chronic sputum production and exposure to tobacco are encouraged to opt for a spirometry test.

GSK is launching the COPD patient education materials including patient booklet, disease poster and flipchart, which are endorsed by the Lung Foundation of Malaysia; these materials will be made available in hospitals and clinics. The aim is to enhance patients’ understanding on COPD and enable physicians to advise their patients on how to recognise COPD symptoms and best manage their condition.

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About World COPD Day

World COPD Day is an annual global advocacy day dedicated to increasing awareness for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and improves care for patients in every corner of the globe. The first World COPD Day was held in 2002. Each year, GOLD (Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease) promotes World COPD Day by choosing a theme and sending out materials to health care professionals, people from the education sector and members of the public. World COPD Day activities are organized in each country by health care professionals, educators, and members of the public who want to help reduce the burden of COPD.

The 2016 theme for World COPD Day will be “Breathe in the knowledge”.

For more information on World COPD Day, please visit http://goldcopd.org/world-copd-day/

About the Lung Foundation of Malaysia

The Lung Foundation of Malaysia (LFM) is a non-profit foundation established in November 2006 to gather funds to contribute towards the improvement of standard of care and treatment of patients with lung disease.

At LFM, we offer support to patients with lung diseases to improve their quality of life. We are also committed to leading a fundamental change in disease approaches by increasing the awareness and knowledge of the public on lung diseases, as well as fund scientific researches related to the improvement of diseases treatment. For more information, please visit http://www.lfm.org.my/

About GlaxoSmithKline Malaysia

GSK is one of the world’s leading research-based pharmaceutical and healthcare companies and is committed to improving the quality of human life by enabling people to do more, feel better and live longer.  For further information, please visit www.gsk.com


[1] Everyday Health, COPD: No Longer a Man’s Disease, [Accessed on: 3 November 2016], Available at: http://www.everydayhealth.com/columns/health-answers/copd-no-longer-a-mans-disease/

[2] World Health Organization, Media centre, 2015. Available from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs315/en/

[3]The Malaysian Times, COPD squeezes one’s life, May 9 2014. Available from http://www.themalaysiantimes.com.my/copd-squeezes-ones-life/

[5] BMC Pulmonary Medicine, Impact of clinical pathway on clinical outcomes in the management of COPD exacerbation, 2012. Available from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3479064/.

[6]Wan C Tan et al.Regional COPD Working Group. Trends in COPD mortality and hospitalizations in countries and regions of Asia-Pacific. Respirology 2009; 14:90-97

[7] National Health & Morbidity Survey 2015. Report on Smoking Status Among Malaysian Adults. Insitute for Public Health. Ministry of Health Malaysia.

[8] Ray, Shaunta' et al. "The Clinical And Economic Burden Of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease In The USA". ClinicoEconomics and Outcomes Research (2013): 235

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