New Medications for COPD? | COPD Foundation

This article was reviewed by Senior Director of Community Engagement and COPD360social Community Manager, Bill Clark, as well as certified staff Respiratory Therapists on January 29, 2020.

Dear COPD Coach,
Why aren’t there more drugs out there for COPD? Other people with COPD that I talk with seem to all take the same medications. Also, I am always hearing about some big advances in research with other diseases, but I don’t hear much about COPD. What is going on?

Looking for Answers

Dear Looking,

This is a topic that is very much a concern for those in the COPD community. However, the answer is not really an easy one to explain, but I will try.

COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S., and unlike many of the other diseases, the numbers continue to rise. As far as new medications, much of this development depends on research. What is interesting to note is that despite this dubious distinction, COPD consistently gets the lowest levels of research funding. Simply put, without the research, cures and new treatments are slow in coming.

Even with research, drug makers must face many hurdles in order for their product to make it to market. As a part of this process, the drug companies must do extensive trials in order to establish such things as product safety, dosage, side effects, interactions with other drugs, to name a few. In order to conduct these trials, the investigators must establish a protocol and once approved must recruit a cohort, which is a group of patients who are willing to participate. Establishing a trial and recruiting a cohort can be difficult, expensive, and very time consuming. Some cohorts have taken as long as a year to recruit, and often are the biggest obstacle for drug makers to overcome.

Once the study has been completed, the findings and data are presented to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), who reviews the material, and either approves it or recommends further testing or documentation. A public hearing is held to discuss the findings and final approval is either given or denied. It is not uncommon for the entire process to take years. Many potential drugs do not pass the trial stage! While we don’t want a dangerous drug to be rushed to market, we would certainly like to see development and approval move much more quickly!

So, the question remains, what is the answer?

In short, the responsibility lies with many.

As far as research, the government bears a great deal of responsibility. Oftentimes other diseases that affect far fewer people, receive more research dollars simply because their patients are more vocal. As far as new treatments, much of this is shouldered again by the government’s lack of providing research dollars. The pharmaceutical companies in their search for such treatments are understandably concerned with costs of development as well as potential profits. The costs involved with bringing a drug to market are staggering.

The responsibility also lies with us, the patients. For too long we have sat back and allowed events to take their own course. In short, our voices were never heard. There are things we can do to change the process and make the system work for us! What are they?

  • Join the COPD Patient-Powered Research Network, a research registry of over 75,000 individuals with COPD who have agreed to share their health information and the impact the disease has on their lives. Operated and governed by groups of patients and their partners, the information is kept in a secure database to be used for research – ultimately leading to a deeper understanding of the disease.
  • Get involved in advocacy efforts. One goal of our State Captain program is to reach out to all 435 members of the Congress to educate them on COPD and to make our views known. It requires nothing more than occasional phone calls or letter writing but can – and will – make a huge difference. You can find out more about that program here.
  • Contribute! Even a few dollars can make a huge difference in speeding up and developing cures.

You can make a difference with just a little effort!

–COPD Coach

Coaches Corner is aimed at providing information for individuals with COPD to take to your doctor, and is not in any way intended to be medical advice. If you would like to submit a question to the Coaches Corner email us at [email protected] We would love to hear your questions and comments. You can address your emails to The COPD Coach.


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